SCOTLAND head coach Gregor Townsend acknowledged that the unavailability of in-form second-row Richie Gray for tomorrow’s final Autumn Test Series clash against Argentina at Murrayfield due to suspension is a major frustration, but he backed younger brother, Jonny, to seize the opportunity he has been presented with as a direct consequence.

The elder Gray was handed a three-match ban on Wednesday having been cited after last weekend’s loss to New Zealand for foul play at a ruck or a maul, and it is understood that the Scottish camp are unhappy that the panel which considered his case contained an Argentinean in the shape of former international referee Juan-Pablo Spirandelli.

Given that three other hearings were conducted on the same day involving panellists from Australia, South Africa, France and England, it is curious that Six Nations (who organise the Autumn Series) opted to have an Argentinean involved in a case which will have a direct impact on a game involving Argentina.

Even if Spirandelli’s impartiality is beyond question in the eyes of Six Nations, he has been put in an invidious position.

However, Scotland have opted not to launch an appeal against the decision on the basis that the continued uncertainty would disrupt the team’s preparation for tomorrow’s match.

“We all expected him [Gray] to get off, but we are not the judge in this,” said Townsend. “Accidents happen at ruck clear-outs. We believed it was an accident, but the panel decided it was a red card.

“The hearing lasted four and a half hours so they must have deliberated long and hard. I know Richie had no intent in his actions, he’s never been red-carded or cited in his career.

“It’s a blow for him and it’s a blow for us because he has been playing so well. But it’s an opportunity for his brother, Jonny, to come in.

“Jonny is fired up and feels he should have been starting this Autumn like lots of guys when not selected.

“There was a real edge about his game when he came on last week.”

Townsend has made only one other – also enforced – change to his starting fifteen from the side he sent out against New Zealand last weekend, with Jack Dempsey set to make his first Scotland start in place of the injured Hamish Watson in a reshuffled back-row.

With a six-day turnaround, there was inevitably a temptation to shake selection up some more in order to ensure that they players taking part in this match are both physically and mentally fresh, but Townsend and his coaching team ultimately reached the conclusion that continuity is key this week as the team tries to build on their improved performance – although disappointing result – against the All Blacks last weekend.

“We had a couple of selection meetings,” he explained. “One on Monday evening, another on Tuesday morning, and we didn’t announce the team to our players until Tuesday afternoon.

“We debated every position, and we also recognised that when you go through a campaign and there is a group of players who have not played, it is not good for them, and it is not good for the squad because you want to give everyone a chance to push for selection for the Six Nations or the World Cup.

“But we kept coming back to the team played well last week and cohesion is important.”

There are six changes to the bench, with Townsend backing a group of international novices to help the team get past their habit of falling out of games in the final 20 minutes.

“We believe in them, and we believe that their energy will be really important,” he said. “People like Andy Christie, Murphy Walker and Cam Redpath are guys who want to get on ball and take the game to the opposition.

“Glen Young also adds real punch and pace.”

Scotland have led their opponents with 20 minutes to go in their last three defeats – against Argentina during the summer then against Australia and New Zealand this Autumn – before running out of steam.

“It’s been part of our review and improvement process,” Townsend added. “The opportunities we didn’t take in that 50-minute period when we were on top against New Zealand are probably more relevant to us not winning that game than the last 15 minutes.

“In Test rugby now, it’s so competitive between every team in the top 10 in the world that if you slip off at any period including the last 10-minutes it will come back to bite you, and if you don’t take your opportunities then it is going to be a much tougher game to win.”