Only just back to full fitness following nearly four months on the sidelines with a foot injury, the 26-year-old second row made his comeback for his club Glasgow Warriors last month and had played in three matches during the Six Nations window. Even still, his head coach Franco Smith had played down suggestion that he, and fellow forward Rory Darge, could be called into the Scotland set-up on the back of fellow lock Grant Gilchrist being ruled out by suspension. Nevertheless, the call from Gregor Townsend and Cummings was named on the bench for Sunday’s clash with Ireland as Gray brothers Richie and Jonny started.
Just seven minutes into the encounter, Richie Gray came off with a rib complaint and Cummings was summoned for his 24th cap. The big Glaswegian is likely to start this weekend in the final match of the tournament at home to Italy, given Gray’s fitness concern and Gilchrist still being banned. It will be an opportunity for him to lay claim to a permanent starting berth when the summer Tests and World Cup roll in later this year.
“It was great to be back,” Cummings said after the 22-7 defeat by the Irish. “It’s a while since I’ve been at Murrayfield – I think 2021 was the last time I played at Murrayfield – so it was amazing to be back out there. In the first half we played well and it was a tough match, the game was in the scales. But in the second half we just didn’t perform in the way that we can perform. But there’s no point in saying that. We need to put that performance in now. It was obviously frustrating, but we really need to look at our learnings from that.”
Cummings knows the importance of finishing off the Six Nations campaign with a victory, improving on last year’s tournament and taking some positive energy into the rest of the year. “It’s really important [to beat Italy],” said Cummings.” We were obviously frustrated with our performance at the end of the Ireland game. It’s important for us to now focus on Italy - take our lessons from Ireland, but focus on Italy and end the tournament on a bit more positive note. We’re still trying to build as a squad, and we’re still looking for that 80-minute performance. We’ll be focusing on trying to get that on Saturday.”
Cummings was not wanting to get too involved in the comments Smith made about a potential call-up. Clearly the South African coach was just wanting to protect the fitness of a player who had only recently returned from quite a serious foot problem. “I’ve just been trying to play my rugby,” Cummings admitted. “I’m just really enjoying being back. It’s been three-and-a-half months from when I got injured, so I was just really happy to get back out playing for Glasgow for a couple of weeks and then I was really happy to be called in and get in the squad. I’ll do whatever job it is, whether it’s starting, bench or non-23. I’m honestly just happy to be back and involved.”
If selected, Cummings is likely to be alongside Jonny Gray against the Italians. “I played with him out in Argentina," he added. “Me and him started there. I’ve played many, many games at Glasgow with Jonny, and then Richie came back, so I’m used to the Gray brothers. I’ve played a lot with them, pretty familiar with how they both work. We got on well. It’s just having that talk on the pitch – what we’re seeing, what we can do better, how we can look to get pressure on them, stuff like that.”