Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Gray in awe of Lions team-mates

Richie Gray, pictured, is looking forward to teaming up with Paul O'Connell

Scotland lock Richie Gray admits he will feel "star-struck" when he links up with his British and Irish Lions team-mates for the first time.

Gray is one of five locks selected in the 37-strong squad for the tour to Hong Kong and Australia and has a strong chance of making the Test team. But first the 23-year-old 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.

"Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell - I have watched these guys for a number of years and they are fantastic players," Gray, speaking as an Adidas ambassador, said. "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.

"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," he said.

"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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