IT is refreshing when a professional sportsman – particularly an SRU contracted rugby player – breaks with protocol and says what is really on his mind.

So, kudos to second-row Ben Toolis for not trying to pretend that he has been happy making up the numbers in the Scotland squad these last two weeks, while Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist and Scott Cummings have been getting all the game time in the team’s two World Cup outings against Ireland and Samoa.

“If I am being honest, it’s been really frustrating,” said the 27-year-old. “The last couple of years the main goal has been to get to a World Cup. You put in the hard work, you play consistently well, but there is a lot of competition in the second-row.”

Toolis has been a regular in the Scottish engine-room under Gregor Townsend, playing in 20 of the 29 games from the summer tour of 2017 through to the start of this World Cup campaign, so the timing of this drop down the pecking order couldn’t have been much worse – especially as he is confident that it is not related to something specific he has personally done wrong.

“I don’t think my performance levels have dropped, to be honest with you – I feel like I have played consistently well,” he said. “I can be very hard on myself when I know I have not been performing.

“I have had stages in my career where I haven’t been playing well and you have to be honest with yourself. This time I don’t feel as though I have had a dip in form. I have been playing well, but Gregor just wanted something different off the bench [in Cummings], while Grant Gilchrist and Jonny Gray have been playing really well.

“You do get feedback from the coaches. But it’s not been with anything I have done wrong – they have just been rewarding other boys. I haven’t been disappointed with what I have been doing, I have been doing the same for the last couple of years.

“I feel as though I am on top of my game and I need to make sure I’m not too hard on myself for something I haven’t done wrong. You take confidence from the fact that all the second-rows are good players. It’s tough, but that’s life.”

In fairness to Toolis, it should be pointed out that he has not thrown his rattle out the pram.

“That’s sport at the end of the day and somebody has to miss out,” he added. “You have to be a good team-mate at that point and make sure everyone else has prepared well.

“You have to try and help the team get a result and that’s what I have been trying to do. But it has been frustrating.”

Toolis is almost certain to get his first taste of World Cup action on Wednesday when the second-stringers will be charged with getting a result in the team’s penultimate pool game against Russia, while as many of the front-liners as possible are wrapped in cotton-wool ahead of next Sunday’s date with destiny against Japan in Yokohama.

“If I do, I will put my heart into it,” he vowed. “I will try and have a really good game and try and help the team reach the quarter-finals. I’ll definitely play my part if I get my chance.

“I know that things can change really quickly. You see boys playing for other countries and when they get back in there, they are outstanding. If you are negative the whole time you would not be ready to go straight back in there.

“You just have to stay as positive as you can and keep doing what you are doing.

“It is a mental skill. To make sure you stay on the ball. It can be frustrating but you have to stay positive.”