WHILE Ben Toolis, former national captain Grant Gilchrist, Tim Swinson and his big brother Richie were all given opportunities across the course of the international season, the constant at the heart of Scotland’s scrum was Jonny Gray.

Nothing unusual in that, of course. It is pretty much how it has been since he scored a try on the second of his Scotland starts – against Argentina in 2014 – starting all bar four of Scotland’s Tests since then, two of those tour matches against Italy and another the formality that was the World Cup meeting with the USA in 2015. 

Still just 24 he is the rock around which his teams are built, having also played in five of Glasgow Warriors’ six European Champions Cup matches this season and all 19 of their European ties in the previous three seasons, repeatedly topping the tackle counts.

Too much may have been asked of him when he was appointed club captain as a 21-year-old in 2015 and new head coach Dave Rennie duly wasted no time in putting that right on his arrival at the beginning of this season when he asked the much more experienced Ryan Wilson to take on that role. 

In many ways his acceptance of it was an example of being willing to a fault, because Gray simply does whatever is asked of him, so the shoulder injury suffered against Connacht a month ago was perhaps something of a blessing in disguise, forcing him to spend a month on the sidelines that has resulted in him being fresh and ready for the challenge of tomorrow’s Pro14 semi-final against the Scarlets which could make an important difference to his team’s chances. 

The lay-off could, of course, be an issue in itself, but he reckons all of that is now addressed in the rehab process. “I’m all good now,” 
he reported. 

“It’s been frustrating the last couple of weeks to miss out, but I’ve been looked after in good hands with the specialists and physios here, so I’m fit and it’s good to be back. 

“I’ve been working with the trainers and the conditioners and the guys that aren’t playing are looked after very well on the conditioning side and the physio side and the way we train it’s very competitive and intense sessions.

“We know we’re going to need that against Scarlets, the brand of rugby they play. We know our fitness is going to have to be up there, so we’ve been training very hard because we know it’s going to be a tough game. 

“Both teams play open and attractive rugby and it’s fun to play in. We have to work on skills all the time and the way you’ve seen how the Scarlets have been playing, the tries they’ve been scoring, the threats they’ve got in the forwards and in the backs, they can score from anywhere, so that’s something we’ve looked at and it’s a real danger with them coming up here.