British & Irish Lions
Gray 'star-struck' by fellow Lions
May 1, 2013
Richie Gray poses in his Lions kit © PA Photos
Scotland second-row Richie Gray is relishing the chance to link up with the British & Irish Lions but concedes he will be "star-struck" by a few of his new team-mates.
Gray was named in Warren Gatland's Lions squad on Tuesday as one of five locks travelling to Australia come the summer. He has endured a tough season with Sale and has recently been ruled out of action due to a hamstring injury, but he has a strong chance of making the Test side.
But first he must come to terms with being in the presence of Ireland veterans Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell, who will be making their fourth and third tours respectively. Gray said: "Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell - I have watched these guys for a number of years and they are fantastic players.
"They have done exceptional things in Lions and Ireland jerseys. You get a bit star-struck because they are stars of the game."
Gray will be competing for one of the second-row berths with O'Connell, a player 10 years his senior, whom he viewed as one of his role models, along with 1997 and 2001 Lions captain Martin Johnson. Gray added: "They are both huge inspirations. People have asked me who I looked up to during my childhood and Martin Johnson was one of the ones that stood out.
"I really admired him on the park, just the way he stood up and led. I had the chance to meet him back in October, which was quite nice. I didn't ask him about the Lions, I couldn't do that - I tried to keep it social, not talk about rugby too much.
"It was good to meet the guy and he has a great presence about him, which I think you saw on the rugby pitch. Paul was unbelievable for Munster against Harlequins earlier this month. It is a credit to the guy that he has been at the top of his game for years, a real stalwart for Ireland and the Lions.
"Considering he was out for a few months with injury troubles, to come back the way he did was exceptional. It was an inspiring performance. It would be a privilege to pack down with him or any of the other lads."
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Gray sustained a torn hamstring in Scotland's Six Nations defeat to Wales on March 9, but has recovered from the injury ahead of schedule. "The hamstring feels really good, it feels fantastic. At the time I knew right away something had gone and it tore," he said. "I suppose on the grand scale of things it's not too bad an injury to pick up. The timing wasn't great, but it hasn't kept me out too long.
"It has been a challenging season personally as things haven't quite gone to plan. Just before the injury I started to get a bit of consistency back. I was happy with the way I was playing during the Six Nations. This season will have been a huge learning curve for me. It 's something I will learn from and look back on in future times as I have been able to deal with the problems."
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