Richie Gray is delighted to be back home in Scotland after re-joining Glasgow Warriors from Toulouse.
The 30-year-old returned to Scotland last month and spent two weeks with his family in quarantine before joining up with the Warriors’ squad as they take part in voluntary fitness testing sessions at BT Murrayfield ahead of the return of the Guinness PRO14 next month.
Gray spoke to the media for the first time since his return to Glasgow, and was looking forward to the season getting started when the Warriors take on Edinburgh on August 22.
“I’ve kept myself ticking over in lockdown as best I could,” he said
“I joined up with the group at the start of July and I’m in reasonable condition, but there’s a lot further to go given the last few months.”
Gray has had a longer lay-off than most, a concussion in training in mid-December means the 2013 British and Irish Lion has yet to see any rugby in 2020, and while that is some weeks off yet, he’s hopeful that the injury problems that plagued the latter stages of his time in France are now behind him.
“I want to get back playing regular rugby,” he said.
“The past few seasons have been quite frustrating from an injury point of view. Just getting back some consistency and getting a run of games and doing well at the club would be good.”
And after ending his first spell with Glasgow in 2012, Gray is keen to help the club return to the heights of their 2015 PRO12 title triumph.
“From a Glasgow point of view, I would love to do really well with the club,” the Scotland internationalist continued.
And while that title success remains Glasgow’s Everest, and won’t be repeated this season with the Warriors out of semi-final contention, the 66-times capped lock believes they are still a club on the up.
“Obviously, there is a transition period as there is a new coach coming in, some players have left and some new players have come in.
“However, the core group and the youth coming through are strong and there is obviously a legacy to do well.
“Glasgow have always hit the play-offs and they have been competing in Europe as well. To continue that is very important to the club.”
Gray turned down a chance to join Scotland’s training squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but when asked about his international future, the 30-year-old was open to a return to Gregor Townsend’s squad.
“The desire is always there and that’s the same for every player, to represent your country.
“First and foremost, the priority is Glasgow. Every player will tell you that you need to play well for your club before looking at internationals.
“You also have to take into account that the [Scotland] second row is pretty strong at the moment. There is a lot of strength in depth and the competition for places is tough. So let’s see what happens.
“I suppose those conversations will happen over the next few months but first and foremost is to get back playing and trying to get a slot in this Glasgow squad. I don’t think I can get ahead of myself.
And despite an impressive rugby CV that includes the Top 14 title and being the last Scot to play in a British and Irish Lions Test, Gray admitted he faces a battle to earn a place in the Warriors’ team, with Scott Cummings a stand-out in the past 12 months and the exceptional talents of Leone Nakarawa available to Head Coach Danny Wilson again, the Fijian having re-signed last month.
“Competition for places is always good from the team point of view and from a personal point of view.
“It will be difficult to get a place in that team but that is a good thing for me. It means that every day I’ve got to be working hard and bringing something to training.
“I’m certainly hoping that that will spur me on as well.”
ICYMI | It might have been 8⃣ years since his last appearance for Glasgow Warriors, but Richie Gray is ready to hit the ground running on his return to his hometown club.
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) July 10, 2020
In the years he’s been away, Gray believes he’s developed as a player thanks to his time in the Gallagher Premiership and the French top flight.
“I feel a lot more rounded, experienced a lot of different rugby, a lot of different styles and cultures and met a lot of different people. I picked up a lot of knowledge.
“It’s one of those things, I wish I knew five or six years ago but I do know now, so hopefully I can transfer that to this Glasgow team and the young guys coming through.
“I look at Castres and Toulouse, two very different playing styles, but both worked well for each side.
“It’s finding the way to play that suits your side. Off the field, I think whenever there was success, there was always a great team culture, boys were always incredibly close and it really did help towards matches.
“That tight-knit squad was consistent throughout.”
And Gray admitted that the lure of a return to Scotland with wife Ellie, to be close to their families, played a big role in his decision to turn down other offers in favour of a return to Glasgow.
“There was a bit of chat, talking to clubs, and then speaking to my agent one night I said my wife had decided that we would like to come home.
“She said with the support network, having a wee one changed a lot of things for us. Having him surrounded by friends and family and us as well.”
Gray has never played at Scotstoun, having left Glasgow before they left Firhill, but he’s looking forward to showing the Warrior Nation just what he can do when he gets an opportunity to wear the club’s colours once again in the not-too distant future.
“I just really wanted to get back in amongst this squad. I see how well they’ve been doing, speak to my brother quite a lot, he’s spoken really highly of Glasgow, how much he loved it, how good the coaching and S&C was.
“I just really fancied it, and fortunately enough for me, Glasgow wanted to take me on.
“We’re delighted to be back.
When he signed for the club earlier this year, Richie would’ve had a fair idea that his younger brother Jonny wouldn’t be around for the pair to rekindle their second row partnership, and the 30-year-old knows he’s got big boots to fill in the Glasgow pack.
“Jonny has been a massive player for the club and he will be a loss – he would be a loss to any team, the calibre of player that he is.
“He is loving it at Exeter, he’s been training for the last few weeks and really enjoying himself. I am sure he’ll do really well.
“He’s an important player, a big personality in the club. He was captain at a very young age, so I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
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