By Charles Patterson
Last Updated: 11/07/20 1:07pm
Richie Gray says establishing himself with Glasgow Warriors is more important just now than a recall to the Scotland squad.
The 30-year old has returned to Glasgow after eight years playing club rugby in England and France, but the lock, capped 65 times, has not played for his country since 2018.
Gray declined the opportunity to join Gregor Townsend’s squad for last autumn’s World Cup, but says he is open to a return to the international arena in the right circumstances.
“I’ve not had massive conversations with Gregor, and that is not my focus at this moment in time,” said Gray. “A lot of people have asked the question, but first and foremost it’s about getting back with Glasgow, training well, playing well and then after that we’ll see what happens.
“I’ve never shut the door on it, and there were conversations… well, I say conversations, it was more “how you are doing, how are you getting on” prior to the Six Nations, but unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to play. I’ve certainly not closed the door on Scotland.
“There’s a lot of strength and depth in the Scottish second row, so it would be foolish for me to think I can just sail back into it – there’s also strength and depth in the Glasgow second row, so I’ve got a lot of work to do before I can even start thinking about that.
“I’d certainly hope I can still compete at that level, but my priority is Glasgow at this moment in time, and I’m focused on getting ready for the games coming up in August.”
Gray is back in training with Glasgow as they prepare the restart of the PRO14, which is provisionally set for August 22.
There is a possibility Glasgow could face Edinburgh upon the competition’s resumption at Murrayfield in front of a limited number of supporters, with a pilot event to test procedures around social distancing currently being discussed by the SRU and Scottish Government.
Gray said: “I read today that obviously if things continue to improve, then [having fans in the stadium] would be great, but I think it’s just one of these things that we need to get on with. I’ve never played behind closed doors before, so it would be strange, but I think that everyone’s just keen to get back on the pitch, playing rugby and get a bit of contact.
“Going up against Edinburgh would be great because they are rivals, so maybe after five minutes of it being a bit strange, you’re fully focused on the rugby anyway. Fans make the sport, I think that’s for every sport, and we’ll certainly miss them, but you can get in the zone and we’ll just have to crack on with it.
“I certainly hope we can all be ready for August 22; we’re working hard to get there but who knows. If you look at the football players, there’s maybe been a bit of rust there, but then in the Super Rugby in New Zealand they all hit the ground running.”
After eight years playing his club rugby outside Scotland, Gray, who was capped for the British and Irish Lions in 2013 in Australia, returns with vast experience and a winning mentality to Glasgow after being part of the Toulouse team that won France’s Top 14 in 2019.
“Why have I returned to Glasgow now? The birth of my son obviously changed a lot of things, so I wanted to come home and be near friends and family,” he said. “I’ve followed Glasgow closely over the last eight seasons and, with how well they’ve done in Europe and their new Scotstoun base, I really wanted to be a part of that.
“Glasgow are one of the best, if not the best attacking side in the PRO14, and [new head coach] Danny Wilson wants to continue with that part of the DNA within the club. He wants to tighten up the defence as well, but keep what’s worked before while making slight improvements.
“I certainly think in Europe, they are knocking on the door. It’s about being in those positions to get through to the knockout stages; getting in that environment, it becomes a habitual thing and eventually you progress on, so I think Glasgow are well placed to do that.
“I’ve changed a lot as a player, and played with some of the best in the world – Cheslin Kolbe, Jerome Kaino, Antoine Dupont… I’ve learnt a lot from them as well. The last couple of seasons at Toulouse were pretty successful, and winning is a habit – it’s very enjoyable and I would love to continue to win! I certainly hope I can continue to do that here.”