Gray hails brutal preparations
Richie Gray has not enjoyed Vern Cotter's punishing training camp one bit - but he believes it will help Scotland when it comes to the crunch during the World Cup.
The giant lock is three weeks into a gruelling pre-tournament training schedule designed to have the Dark Blues playing to their maximum by the time they travel to England to take on Japan in their Pool B opener on September 23.
Cotter has taken things back to basics, even hiring French commandos to lead this 46-man squad up a 1,800-metre mountain hike during their recent stay at Fort Romeu in the French Pyrenees.
Once they reached the top, the players were ordered to spend the night on an exposed summit as part of an exercise that taxed not only their physical capabilities, but their reserves of mental strength.
But Gray is confident a squad whitewashed at this year's RBS 6 Nations will come out stronger for it.
The Castres second-rower, speaking at the launch of Scotland's World Cup kit, said: "I've been through these camps with Scotland and the Lions and they don't get any easier. This one has been pretty brutal. The first two weeks with the testing and then going up to the mountains in France was really tough.
"It was tough on your body but also tough mentally, just trying to keep yourself going.
"But now we're back here at Murrayfield and we feel all the better for it.
"Vern and the other coaches have said they want to make us comfortable in uncomfortable situations and that is what these past few weeks have all been about.
"It's so that if we are in a bit of bother, say the 79th minute of a Test match needing a drop-goal to win the game, we have got the tools to deal with it.
"I wouldn't say Vern is radically different to other coaches but the big difference to his approach is that he is so focused on bringing us together and making us remember who we are, that we are playing for our country.
"He isn't letting us lose focus from the fact that the teams in our pool are training just as hard as we are - if not harder - so we have to keep pushing ourselves."
As well as their first match against Japan in Gloucester, the Scots will have to overcome the United States in Leeds and then pick up at least one win from the following clashes with South Africa and Samoa at Newcastle's St James' Park if they are to make the knock-out stages.
Gray was part of the first ever Scotland side which failed to make the quarter-finals of a World Cup four years ago in New Zealand.
That feat rankles with the 25-year-old just as much as the five straight defeats suffered by his side already this year.
But he believes a positive start to the tournament could ensure there is no repeat.
"This year's Six Nations was a real tough one for the fans and for ourselves," he said. "I mean, how many times have we sat and talked about positive signs but not results?
"We started the first two games well but came up just short. Like the World Cup, it's a tournament that is all about momentum and if you can get that it can take you right through.
"The message after the Six Nations was to go back to our clubs and do something. We had the Glasgow guys who went and won the PRO12, the Edinburgh boys who reached the Challenge Cup final, and even the lads from Saracens, who won the league down south.
"So these guys have pushed on and now they have brought that confidence back here.
"It's a fresh start now and now we need to make the most of it.
"Maybe we went in a bit undercooked four years ago.
"I still feel we should have won the Argentina game, it was a pretty cruel result. After that we were up against it but those are the small margins.
"This time we need to start well and then pick up some confidence."