JONNY GRAY believes that the painful lessons learned from Glasgow’s 19-11 defeat at the Stade Ernest Wallon in their first encounter with Toulouse can pave the way towards a successful revenge mission when the Frenchmen come to Scotstoun for Saturday’s European Rugby Champions Cup reprise.
The 20-year-old admits that finding himself face-to-face with his boyhood heroes Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy for the first time last week was a surreal experience but one the Scotland international was at pains to underline he has taken a lot from.
Perhaps the debilitating combination of Glasgow’s lack of discipline, the sheer size of the Rouge et Noir pack, which weighed in at 909kgs and the superior nous of the four-times Heineken Cup winners proved too much for Gregor Townsend’s side in the South-West of France.
Yet, with Glasgow’s 13-game home winning run in all competitions, going back to a 15-8 European defeat by Toulon on January 17 earlier this year, to back his claims, the conviction in Gray’s words that Glasgow can prevail on home soil was palpable.
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“Toulouse have world-class players who can hurt you from anywhere but we believe that we have learned some very hard lessons from the first game and we have been working very hard to make sure that we are much improved as a result of that from last Sunday,” said Gray.
“Obviously our discipline must be better than it was in the first game and clearly we must take our chances when they come our way, but you must do that in any game at this level.
“We were disappointed with the result but we have taken a lot from the positives that were there in that first performance and you look at the quality of player that Toulouse had in their side, guys like Dusautoir and Harinordoquy, and it was at times almost surreal, yet we dug in and showed real spirit and we can take a lot of positives from that.”
Gray made his European debut against reigning European champions Toulon in the intimidating cauldron of the Stade Mayol in 2013, so even for one so young, he has packed some hefty big game experience into his locker already, not including his clutch of Scotland caps.
But with Glasgow only three points behind Guy Noves’ men ahead of Saturday’s return, the relish with which the lock is viewing this potentially pivotal Pool Four encounter was clear: “Obviously making my European debut at Toulon last season was huge for me but this is probably even bigger and the fact it is at Scotstoun definitely adds something to it,” said Gray.
“We know how hard a game it will be but our fans give us fantastic backing and hopefully that can make a difference.”
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