Gray overwhelmed with second chance
November 13, 2008
Scott Gray is relishing his second chance at international level © Getty Images
Scotland flanker Scott Gray has revealed he was almost overwhelmed with the emotion of earning his second cap more than four years after making his debut.
Northampton back-rower Gray came off the bench against New Zealand at Murrayfield on Saturday to complete a remarkable comeback from National League One obscurity to Test match star.
It was all too much for the Zimbabwe-born 30-year-old, who was playing outside the Guinness Premiership with Doncaster only six months ago. He said, "When I went out on the field, it was absolutely unbelievable. The atmosphere was just tingling.
"We had a minute's silence and, when we were waiting, I started to get quite emotional because I couldn't help but start thinking of my journey, where I'd been and that I'd finally got back here.
"I can remember very vividly standing there four years previously. Then I had to start trying to fight those emotions away and just concentrate on what I had to do. It did feel like my first Test all over again.''
Gray, who qualifies for Scotland through his Barrhead-born father, was unable to prevent a 32-6 defeat to the All Blacks, who taught their hosts a lesson in clinical finishing.
But the flanker did enough to keep his place on the bench for this Saturday's second autumn international against South Africa. He said, "Hopefully, this time I'll be able to enjoy it a little bit more because I'll feel a little bit more familiar with it."
Gray, who made his debut under the Matt Williams regime, had failed to win over current head coach Frank Hadden until he joined promoted Saints this summer. He had found himself at Doncaster after Border Reivers disbanded at the end of the 2006-07 season and admitted he feared his international career might be over.
He said, "Those thoughts were there and as soon as they came in I was trying to push them to the back again. I knew I had to get back in the Premiership that year or the year after or it was done and dusted."
When he achieved that goal, his next target was impressing Hadden, though he was determined not to allow his desperation for a recall to affect his performances.
He said, "I was just trying to concentrate on playing, not thinking, 'I hope I get in the squad, I hope I get in the squad'. It was a real battle of emotions."
Gray's recall came as a surprise to most observers, mainly because he was the only player not named in September's bumper 50-man training party to be drafted in for the final squad.
Much has changed since Gray's debut but many of the faces he got to know playing against Australia four years ago are still part of the set-up and he insists he has had no trouble settling back in.
"Most of the players are still the same players I played with when I got my first cap," he said. "As for bonding with the players, there's not much of a problem. The set-up with the coaches has changed a bit, obviously for the better.
"It's moving with the times and they're trying to do things to the best of their ability and it's working."
Gray would love nothing better than to put one over South Africa after suffering at the hands of the country's schoolboy sides when playing for Peterhouse College in his native Zimbabwe.
"We used to play against schools in South Africa," he said. "We would get beaten by them quite regularly and I found them to be quite arrogant."
The experience was enough to put Gray off joining South Africa's renowned Stellenbosch University, and he instead opted to move to Australia at the age of 18, where he played both rugby union and league.
It was always his ambition to represent Scotland and he jumped at the chance to join Bath in 2004. That led to a move to Borders before his spell at Doncaster and his current renaissance at Northampton.
He said, "It's been a long journey, a hard journey."
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker