Stuart McInally has promised to ‘do it for Dave’ after answering a World Cup SOS call from Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend following the freak accident suffered by Dave Cherry when he slipped on a stair at the team hotel on Monday night.

The veteran hooker was left devastated after working hard all summer as part of Scotland’s extended World Cup training squad but failing to make the final cut when the 33 to travel to France was announced last month – but he is now reaping the reward of refusing to give up on the dream of signing off his rugby career on a high.

“I saw Dave before he flew home on Thursday and he seems okay which is the most important thing,” said McInally of his former Edinburgh clubmate. “I was so disappointed for him because he had worked so hard in the build-up, and I feel like we all pushed each other in that pre-season.

“From chatting to Gregor, the selection with the hookers was close and Dave thoroughly deserved his spot. I know he’s just devastated with what’s happened. It is just unfortunate. I’m sad it has ended that way for him and, as a squad, it has definitely given us extra motivation.

“I guess I knew this could always happen,” he added. “If I hadn’t stayed fit and been bitter about missing selection and then they needed me, I couldn’t have forgiven myself if they didn’t pick me for being unfit or if I came over here and let the team down. 

“That was all the motivation I needed to stay in shape, and I’m pleased I did because the first thing I rocked into on Thursday was a fitness test! I had to make sure I showed up well in that!”

McInally plans to qualify as a commercial airline pilot after he hangs up his boots at the end of this World Cup window, and he’s certainly clocked up a few air-miles during the last nine days.

The 33-year-old initially flew out to the south of France late last week to provide cover – but not officially join the squad – when Ewan Ashman suffered a concussion in training, before flying home on Monday night when there were no further injuries during Scotland’s tournament opener against South Africa in Marseilles.

However, no sooner had he left the camp than Cherry has his slip-up and suffered a concussion of his own, meaning he would be unable to play rugby for at least the next 12 days, and perhaps longer depending on how he progresses through his return to play protocols.

With Scotland’s next pool match against Tonga only 13 days away, the decision was made to officially call McInally into the squad and send Cherry home.

“When I came out last week, it was made very clear that I wouldn’t be training, that I would just be in and around the environment in case something happened in a warm-up or in a last training session,” said McInally. “That was a bit strange, but I also knew that’s what I was here for so it was fine. 

“When the hookers all got through the game fine, Gregor said there was a flight home on Monday night if I wanted to get on it. I decided to go home and see my family, because I still wasn’t part of the squad so there was no hope of me training or anything.

“I got the call on Wednesday to say I was coming back out. I got a day with my boy on Tuesday and then we kept him off nursery on Wednesday before I flew back that night. 
“I hadn’t unpacked. I’m slow at that sort of stuff and my wife always gets on at me, but for once it paid off because I didn’t have to pack twice!”

If McInally does make it into the match-day squad for any of Scotland’s remaining matches at this tournament, it will bring up his half century of caps, which would be an added bonus – but the biggest motivation is to wipe away some of the painful memories of the 2019 World Cup, when he was captain of the squad but ended up being dropped from the starting XV as the team tumbled out of the tournament at the end of the pool stage.

“I spoke years ago about my goals, and I said it would be cool to get 50 caps," he said. "I had come to terms with the fact I wasn’t going to get 50 and I was determined that wasn’t going to define whether I’d had a successful career. Even if I’d retired on 47 before the summer warm-up schedule, I would have still been really proud, knowing that 47 is a lot of caps especially with a positional change. 

“So, everyone is talking about that [50] but until you are named in a 23 there’s so much that can go wrong. I’m just focused on trying to put my best foot forward for the team. I’d be keen to talk more about if I get it. I appreciate it’s a good story but I’m trying not to think about it.

“My mindset is different this time compared to the last World Cup because I know I am finishing,” he added. “This is literally my last time in an environment, so I’m just trying to soak it all in. My focus is on enjoying it and I’m confident that will get the best out of me as well.
“The pressure is probably the same as in 2019 because I want to play well, and I want the team to play well, and I want to achieve what we know we can achieve here. But, certainly, coming into this group as I have now, it is a different kind environment, and I can definitely say I am going to enjoy this more.”