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'It is doubtful he will play this weekend'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Exeter boss Rob Baxter has explained he had no issue with Scotland surprisingly calling up Jonny Gray for this week’s Guinness Six Nations round four preparations for Italy away on Saturday – although he doesn’t think the forward will be involved in the Stadio Olimpico game.

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The lock started his country’s early February matches against England and Wales but then spent the tournament’s first fallow week with his ankle in a boot following an injury that the Chiefs initially suggested would see him miss the remainder of the Six Nations.

However, having since been rehabbing the injury at Exeter without playing, Gray was called into Scotland’s round four squad at the start of this week as Gregor Townsend seeks to get things back on track following the successive losses to the Welsh and the French after an opening-round win over England.  

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Club boss Baxter reckons it is an assessment week for Gray in the Scotland camp rather than an immediate return to play, the coach suggesting that the March 19 game away to Ireland is the more realistic target for the second row to get back in the Test team.  

“He is being assessed this week,” explained Baxter at his midweek Exeter media briefing. “It’s not for him to play this weekend, this is an assessment for him this week to see where he is. I am not saying he is not going to be picked to play this weekend, that’s not for me to say. I think it is doubtful he will play this weekend. 

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“A lot of it is an assessment based on getting him available for next week which is good. We will know more when he returns at the end of this week – if he returns. We will know a lot more about where Scotland see him and we will able be able to catch up with the rest of his rehab and see where things can happen for him if called in next week if required.  

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“I wouldn’t say they [Scotland] are rushing him back. We think he is kind of on track for that time period. We’re aligned with the Scotland medical team and I’m very aligned with Gregor and we have a lot of contact. He runs that part of things very well. I wouldn’t feel he is being rushed. 

“That is about the schedule we would see with the injury and so I just think they want players available. No one really knows week by week in your squad how injuries or form will go. For us, I’m just delighted that he is close to being back and if he gets game time with Scotland or if they return him to us and he is ready to go that would be great.”

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