Home comforts key to Jonny Gray signing new Glasgow deal

The speculation in recent months about Jonny Gray moving to play his club rugby in England or France next season was inevitable.
Glasgow lock Jonny Gray celebrates signing a two-year contract extension with his hometown club. Picture: SNS/SRUGlasgow lock Jonny Gray celebrates signing a two-year contract extension with his hometown club. Picture: SNS/SRU
Glasgow lock Jonny Gray celebrates signing a two-year contract extension with his hometown club. Picture: SNS/SRU

With his existing deal with Glasgow Warriors due to expire at the end of the current campaign, a player of that calibre was always going to attract interest from the millionaire clubs of European rugby. But, in the end, it was not a great surprise to learn yesterday that the 23-year-old second-row had put pen to paper on a two-year contract extension with his hometown outfit which will keep him at Scotstoun until at least May 2020.

He is a product of the city and is passionate about the club. The Warriors is where his professional career began, it is where he feels he belongs and it is where he has absolute clarity about how he fits into the overall structure.

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Gray is very serious about his rugby and very serious about his development. With a World Cup looming around the corner in 2019, he knows he will be well looked after at Scotstoun, which will in turn give him the best possible chance to be a key man in what has the potential to be a successful tournament for the national team.

His big strength is his industry and his willingness to put his body on the line, and the set-up inside this country means that his coaches will be able to save him from himself by rationing his game time.

A bigger salary was almost certainly on the cards elsewhere, but time is on his side and if he continues to develop as an all-round player during the next two years as he has done in the last four years since signing his first professional contract in 2013, then his market value is only going to go in one direction.

“I am very happy to be at Glasgow, it is a place I love, it is the place I am from. I feel when I run out I represent more than just myself,” he said.

“Cambuslang, the club that got me here, I represent them … my family, my friends, my Gran. It gives me a real buzz to play in front of them and the fans – who are crazy, mental. It is great. When you speak to them, they are just good people.

“I’ve got a lot to learn and it’s great the coaches we’ve got here because they can sit down and give you one-on-ones and provide advice on what you need to work on. You get Dan [McFarland – the Scotland forwards coach] coming in to work on lineout stuff – which might be minor detail – but it’s all part of a great environment.

“The physios mean you get very well looked after. The same with the strength and condition guys, when I had my wrist injury at the start of the season I got to sit down with them and set my own goals, it was one of those conversations about where they thought I was and where I thought I was. It was great to hear different ideas, some things did not work, some did.”

A big money switch to Bristol – who are on course for promotion to the Premiership and have shown their determination to ensure this return to the top flight will be a permanent arrangement by making All Blacks utility back Charles Piutau the world’s top earning player – was the most persistent rumour. But, it turns out, was well wide of the mark.

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“There was interest from other clubs, Bristol was not one of them,” he volunteered, without prompting.

Glasgow will lose one of their stars in the summer when Finn Russell, pictured, heads off to Racing 92, but the retention of Gray along with scrum-half Ali Price and Fijian livewire Niko Matawalu in recent weeks suggests they are making a pretty decent fist of retaining the nucleus of the squad which has won all ten of their Guinness Pro 14 games so far this season.

That record goes on the line on Saturday evening when arch-rivals Edinburgh are on the agenda at BT Murrayfield. “It’s going to be a big game. It’s very exciting. When you look at Edinburgh and the quality they’ve got and how well they’ve gone – they play some class rugby and are firing at the moment – so it is going to be very tough, but we’re looking forward to it,” concluded Gray.