Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Gray feeling good for Lions tour

Richie Gray has been sidelined with a hamstring injury

Richie Gray is ready to throw everything into next month's British and Irish Lions tour after recovering from an RBS 6 Nations-ending injury.

The towering Scotland lock tore his hamstring during the Six Nations clash against Wales almost eight weeks ago. But he has now regained full fitness and is among five second-row forwards selected by Lions head coach Warren Gatland for a 10-match trip that starts against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1, before moving to Australia.

"The hamstring feels really good, it feels fantastic," said Gray, who will leave Sale Sharks for French club Castres next term. "At the time, I knew right away something had gone and it tore. 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."

He added: "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."

Gray will be competing for one of the second-row berths with Paul O'Connell, a player 10 years his senior, whom he views as one of his role models, along with 1997 and 2001 Lions captain Martin Johnson.

"They are both huge inspirations," Gray added.

"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.

"Paul was unbelievable for Munster against Harlequins last 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."

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