Nearly seven weeks on from Scotland’s defeat by Japan at the World Cup, Jonny Gray is rested, refreshed and ready to resume playing for Glasgow.
Left to his own devices, the second-row forward would have got back to playing for the Warriors as soon as possible after his return from the Far East: in common with most players, he tends to believe that the best way to deal with a traumatic defeat is to play again as soon as possible.
Instead of doing that, however, he was told by the Scotland management that he was to take an extended break, not only to recover mentally and physically from the exertions of the World Cup, but also to prepare for a lengthy and demanding season.
Now, as he prepares for a probable first Warriors outing of the season against Leinster tomorrow, Gray understands the wisdom of being told to take a month and more to recuperate.
“It was a pretty dark time for everyone, as you can imagine,” he said earlier this week. “We went out there to do a job and didn’t. That was hugely disappointing,
“It was a strange feeling, a lot of things going through your head after the World Cup disappointment. A lot of hurt and a lot of things to get through mentally, so the first thing you want to do is get back playing.
“You want to get straight back into it, train and play, focus on what you do. I got told I had a rest and had to get my head round that – but now that I’ve had that time, yeah, I realise it was probably good to have that break.
“It was good to switch off mentally. Physically, I was working with the coaches and trainers telling me what to do to keep ticking over. I feel good, the body feels good, mentally I can’t wait to get back in. I’ve been watching the boys here and feeling the buzz around the club and getting ribbed a lot for having extra time off.
“It’s great to be back in contention for this week. I can’t wait to get back playing. I’ve been back in the last two weeks – as soon as you get back in, though I have felt this for a while, you want to get back into playing straight away.”
This season’s Pro14 final is on 20 June, and is followed by a Scotland tour to South Africa and New Zealand. Given that onerous workload that could be coming his way, Gray may well be grateful of his autumn break long before next summer rolls around – although at the time, back in September, he was surprised to be told that he was being mothballed for so long.
“It just came out,” he said of the instructions from the Scotland camp, which saw him and Edinburgh captain Stuart McInally given the longest rest periods.
“I didn’t really have time to think, and then we all got given individual plans and had to sit and work with that. Thankfully I could sit down with the coaches, trainers and the rest to make a plan on how we could go forward. I feel in a good place now – it’s good to be back and being made fun of a lot. It’s good training and getting back into it.”
Presuming Gray is in the team that Dave Rennie will announce today to take on Leinster, he could hardly have hoped for a demanding return. The defending Pro14 champions, who beat Glasgow in last season’s final, have carried their commanding form into this campaign and are currently 14 points ahead of Rennie’s side in Conference A after just six rounds of league fixtures.
“You see every week how good they are and the depth they have in their squad,” Gray added. “They have players everywhere who can cause a lot of damage – internationals and players throughout the whole squad who have played in Europe and been dominant there and in the league. They’re first in our pool as well, so we know how big a challenge it’s going to be back here at home with the way they hold on to the ball, apply lots of pressure and how clinical they are as a team.”