GLASGOW coach Gregor Townsend has signed up the latest Gray talent, Richie’s younger brother Jonny, for three years but also handed opportunities to two late developers in the Scottish game.
Jonny Gray has earned a contract in his own right by proving that he is more than merely Richie’s brother, although he has been tracked closely as a result of the emergence of his elder sibling, who has been one of Scotland’s hottest prospects since making his Test debut in 2010.
Richie, now with Castres, is preparing to tour with the British and Irish Lions. That may have put more pressure on 19-year-old lock Jonny, but the Scotland under-20 skipper has also learned from his brother about the work required to make it as a pro rugby player.
The younger Gray, who spent last summer playing in New Zealand as part of the Macphail Scholarship, is simply delighted to make the step up from the Glasgow academy.
He said: “I’m honoured to have agreed a professional contract with the Warriors.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with the squad, who have all made me feel very welcome since I joined the club and I’m grateful for the experience in the PRO12 this season.
“The set-up at Scotstoun is excellent and it’s the perfect platform for me to develop as a player. Competition is tough but the players have been great and continually offer me advice, which has helped a lot. I’m really looking forward to continuing my career in Glasgow over the next three years.”
The other two Warriors signings are hookers Fraser Brown and Kevin Bryce.
Brown was highly rated as a teenager and was expected to become a fixture with Edinburgh and a Test contender when he signed after captaining Scotland in the under-20 World Cup in 2009. But he suffered a neck injury on top of serious shoulder and biceps injuries and was released two years ago. After suffering a further injury when taken on trial by Sale Sharks, he quit rugby altogether but, at just 23, Brown missed the game and, a few months later, was starring for Heriot’s, albeit as a flanker.
He explained then: “I was watching a game when I couldn’t stand the thought of being left on the sidelines any longer. I texted my old rugby coach at Merchiston Castle School, Mark Appleson, who I knew was assisting Heriot’s, and after one game in the seconds I was promoted to the first team. Finally, I am experiencing what I set out to achieve in rugby – pure and simply enjoyment.”
That Heriot’s stint and a call-up, with Bryce, to the Warriors squad, to cover injuries further fired his enthusiasm this season.
Bryce, at 24, is further evidence that the best front rows tend to mature later and the former Stirling County and Scotland age-grade cap is similarly eager to make the most of his one-year deal.
Bryce said: “There is a lot of competition for the number two jersey but that motivates me even more to try to break into the team. I’m delighted to get the opportunity to stay at Scotstoun and I’m looking forward to getting a full pre-season under my belt.”
Having come from club rugby and retained strong links with that sector of the game, Glasgow coaches Townsend and Shade Munro have a better grasp of the value of club players than many at the SRU.
Townsend said: “Kevin and Fraser have been involved with us this season and their work ethic has impressed me. We’ve seen at first hand what they’re capable of in a professional environment and they will be excellent additions.”
Forwards coach Munro added: “Fraser and Kevin are two of the most highly rated hookers in the club game in Scotland and we’re delighted to have secured them for next season. Both have looked sharp and shown a desire to do well in training since they arrived here and they will add competition to our squad.”