Six Nations: Richie Gray has inner steel and can boss the lineout for Scotland, says Wilson
Gray was a statement signing by Danny Wilson when he persuaded the forward to come home to Glasgow after eight years in England and France. But his outings for the Warriors have been few and far between due to a concussion injury.
Wilson believes Gray’s decision to return to Glasgow was partly motivated by his desire to win a Scotland recall and his recent performances in the inter-city derbies were also fuelled by almost three years in the international wilderness.
“I am really pleased for Richie,” said Wilson. “He was a couple of months out with concussion and it can take players a while to get back from that. But he hit the ground running, didn’t he?
“I think he had the carrot in his mind that because he was back in Scotland he wanted to play for Scotland. He was motivated enough to know the derbies were important enough for him to have good games in, which he did.”
The festive double-header between Edinburgh and Glasgow has long doubled up as an unofficial international trial and Townsend saw plenty he liked in Gray’s performances.
The national coach praised his ability in the lineout and in open play and spoke favourably about his “excellent” workrate when he picked him in his Six Nations squad last week. With Scotland’s opening match against England just ten days away, Townsend must now decide whether the 31-year-old has played enough to feature in his matchday 23 at Twickenham.
For Wilson, what is indisputable is where 6ft 10in Gray can make the biggest difference.
“It has to be the lineout,” said the Glasgow coach. “He is an outstanding lineout forward on your own ball. As a group we did a lot of homework on the opposition and decided we were going to go after [Edinburgh] in the air. Ritchie is your ideal man for that job, as we saw.
“He makes a point of difference and any opposition lineout will be thinking, ‘Christ, he is a big old lump to get the ball over’.
“I am guessing Scotland will have seen that. Also maybe with a few hooker injuries Ritchie becomes a valuable person in the group.”
Wilson noted that Gray is not the most vocal of players but bring a quiet authority befitting of a player with 65 Scotland caps and one for the Lions.
“Richie is a quiet, laid back man but has inner steel and inner drive that I have seen recently come out,” said Wilson.
“He is a different type of leader. He leads around lineout well and is a leader by example and presence ahead of voice. He is not a shouter, screamer, your motivator. That’s not Ritchie but he does lead well by other means. Hopefully he does that with Scotland and gets a good opportunity and comes back to us healthy and ready to play for us as well.”