"It feels good to be back" | Gray ready to hit the ground running
A lot has happened in the past eight years in the worlds of both Glasgow Warriors and Richie Gray.
An hour-long appearance against Leinster at the RDS on 11 May 2012 marks the second-rower’s most recent run-out for the club, as Glasgow closed out the 2011/12 campaign. Fast forward almost 3,000 days, and - having returned to his first professional club as a British and Irish Lion, a French TOP14 winner and a veteran of over 60 caps for Scotland – Gray is relishing being back in Warriors colours.
“It feels good to be back,” said the 30-year-old.
“It helps when you know the area and the city quite well – I grew up here, so coming back and seeing family and friends has been great. The setup through in Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield is pretty good as well, and that’s helped us all get back and hit the ground running. It’s been good to see all the boys and the coaching staff again, and just get back to training and some sense of normality.
“There’s obviously been a lot of changes since I left, but there are still a few familiar faces from before! Guys like Rob [Harley], Ryan [Wilson], Pete [Horne] and Chris [Fusaro] are all still here, so it’s been great to catch up with them.”
The Warrior Nation’s adoration for their team is another constant from Gray’s first spell with his hometown side. News of his return was greeted with an outpouring of positivity on social media, as fans lined up to welcome the 6’10” second-rower back to the club. With a young family and a chance to come home, it proved too good an opportunity to pass up.
“I never stopped following Glasgow after I left,” said Gray.
“I’ve seen how well the club has done in the last eight years and been incredibly proud of everything they’ve achieved both domestically and in Europe. I felt I wanted to be part of that.
“I’ve never actually played at Scotstoun and the matchday experience there always looks incredible in front of a really passionate fanbase.
“From a family perspective, too, my wife Ellie and I have been away for eight years and now with young Ostin it’s good to be back close to family and friends.”
Whilst Gray may have to wait a bit longer to run out in front of the Warrior Nation at Scotstoun due to current government guidelines, the Scotland international has already linked up with his new team-mates at the home of Scottish rugby as all eyes turn to a return to rugby. It might be a different type of setup than the squad is used to, but Gray is effusive in his praise for the voluntary fitness sessions at BT Murrayfield.
“We’ve got everything set up outside,” explained Gray.
“The weights sessions are outdoors instead of in the gym, but it still has everything you’d need.
“After those sessions you’re out on the pitch for your run, and again you’re sectioned off away from everyone else. It’s obviously a bit different, but it’s making sure we tick every box we need to tick and keep everyone safe. It’s been going well, and the boys are pretty happy.”
Still just 30, Gray – along with Leone Nakarawa - nevertheless finds himself as one of the older heads in a youthful crop of second-rowers. With new arrival Hamish Bain joining Scott Cummings and Kiran McDonald as the engine room options available to new Head Coach Danny Wilson, the youth present throughout the squad is an exciting prospect for Gray.
“I’m really looking forward to working with all of them,” he said.
“There’s such a talented group of second-rowers at the club, it’s going to be great to work together and learn from each other day in, day out. I’m keen to work with those guys and learn from them, and if I can help them improve anywhere too then I’m going to do everything I can.
“Towards the end of my time with Toulouse, I was becoming one of the more senior players – there was a massive influx of younger guys coming through, very similar to here. It’s such a good thing for the club, because the younger guys throughout the squad – like Jamie Dobie, like the Fagersons, like Rufus McLean - bring a massive amount of energy and are keen to learn every day. If you can mix that with some more senior figures, then you’ve got a pretty good balance.
“It’s an exciting time for the club.”
For now, though, attentions are well and truly fixed on the closing two rounds of the 2019/20 Guinness PRO14 regular season. Whilst it may be an unorthodox time to make your return to your first professional side, Gray is fully focused on preparing for August’s clashes with Glasgow’s cross-country rivals.
“I’d love to be part of the Edinburgh matches,” he grinned.
“Two fixtures back-to-back like that would be a pretty great first couple of matches back!
“I’d definitely say I’m a more-rounded player than I was eight years ago. I’ve experienced different ways of playing the game and different cultures, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to share those experiences with the group as well as help this team be as good as it can be.
“I can’t wait to pull the Glasgow shirt on again.”