Scotland coach Andy Robinson has taken the controversial decision to put five of his key players in cotton wool before the World Cup. Captain Alastair Kellock, Richie Gray, John Barclay, Ross Ford and Allan Jacobsen have played their last game for either Edinburgh or Glasgow this season. Robinson said: “This is a decision that’s not been taken lightly. It’s a decision that’s based on individual players and their programmes.

“It’s a reflection on the season and the previous seasons they’ve had and it’s done on an individual basis.”

The decision shows how seriously Robinson and his coaches are taking the World Cup, breaking new ground as this has never happened before. England’s players could still play 6-7 Aviva Premiership matches before the end of the season and Robinson is prepared to risk seeing the quintet go stale before the World Cup warm-up games.

Robinson added: “We feel it’s right these decisions are made now looking at the stage of the season. Richie Gray is being taken out of action. He has doubled his game time this year and he has performed at a high level at a higher level of match as well and performed outstandingly well.

“This is for his development for the World Cup, but also for future matches – it’s looking ahead to two, three years time as well.”

Discussing hooker Ford and loosehead prop Jacobsen, Robinson said: “Both have had high game time in the previous three years. They’ve played a lot of rugby and they’ve had high game time this year.

“We feel it’s in the best interests for their development and for the Rugby World Cup that they are made unavailable for Edinburgh now.”