British & Irish Lions
Gray relishing Lions opportunity
May 13, 2013
Richie Gray will be in the mix for the Lions' first match against the Barbarians on June 1 © PA Photos
Scotland second-row Richie Gray is itching to pull on a British & Irish Lions jersey and in the process put a difficult season behind him.
Gray sustained a hamstring injury during Scotland's Six Nations clash with Wales in March and has not played since. On the domestic scene, he played just 11 Aviva Premiership games for Sale Sharks this term, the side he joined from Glasgow Warriors ahead of the 2012-13 campaign.
But his stay at the Sharks did not go to plan. Sale found themselves languishing at the foot of the table and despite being just one year into his contract, Gray has opted join Castres ahead of next season. However, despite his average campaign, Warren Gatland put his faith in the 23-year-old and named him in his 37-man squad for the tour to Australia - a call-up Gray admitted was "overwhelming".
And any thought of playing in the Top 14 next year will be put to one side as he focuses solely on Lions duty - something he is relishing.
"I'll be the first to admit it has been a far from vintage season," Gray said. "I know I can perform a lot better. However, since the injury I've been able to shake off bumps and bruises from the season and I have managed to get myself away from the game a wee bit which allowed me to refocus and I have been working on some conditioning. So hopefully I can now crack on for the Lions."
With 31 caps to his name, an impressive feat for a 23-year-old, Gray will go into the tour as the third most experienced lock behind Paul O'Connell and Alun-Wyn Jones and he is looking forward to playing and working alongside the other four second-rows on the tour.
"They are quality, quality players and I have certainly watched a lot of them and played against them. What I'm looking forward to is working alongside them, seeing them play and hopefully learn from them."
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.