Six Nations: Richie Gray puts Lions rivalries to the back of his mind

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Scotland lock Richie Gray insisted the Lions was not on his mind after his England counterpart Joe Launchbury put his hand up for the tour to Australia.

The 23-year-old Gray was pencilled in as a Lions starter following strong showings in the 2011 and 2012 RBS Six Nations, but Wasps’ Launchbury has showed he too is an athletic lock with lots of potential and did so again in England’s 38-18 win at Twickenham on Saturday.

“I won’t think too much about my personal performance,” said Gray, whose form surely has not benefited from being involved in an Aviva Premiership relegation battle following his summer switch from Glasgow Warriors to Sale Sharks.

“I’m just disappointed at the moment. I think he [Launchbury] is a very good player. I’ve been very impressed.

“It’s important for me to play well for this team and perform my role. I’m not thinking about the Lions.”

Gray believes Scotland, who took the lead through Sean Maitland’s tenth-minute try, have plenty of room for improvement for Saturday’s Test with buoyant Italy at Murrayfield.

Gray said: “We got up, we got close and then second half we simply didn’t turn up. That’s very disappointing. It’s certainly exposed areas that we’ll need to do a lot of work on.

“We’ll need a big performance against Italy. I believe if we perform to the best of our ability we can get the win and build momentum from there.”

Half-back Greig Laidlaw is confident Scotland will make the necessary improvements required for success against Italy. Edinburgh captain Laidlaw, who made his first start at scrum-half having been fielded at fly-half last autumn by former Scotland head coach Andy Robinson, said: “We need to sort it out in training. I expect us to fix it and I expect us to be firing on all cylinders.

“We just need to get back on the horse and whoever’s in front of us we need to try to put them away. That’s exactly what we’ll be focusing on come next Saturday.”

The key tackle and breakdown contests were lost by Scotland, contributing to the defeat. Collective improvement can come from individuals improving their technique, Laidlaw says.

“It’s about us making that first collision, slowing the ball down,” Laidlaw added.

“We need to start making more aggressive lower shots. Too many of us went too high and fell off tackles. That put us on the back foot.”

Scotland play Italy, Ireland and Wales at home in successive rounds, with many believing – certainly before yesterday’s stunning 23-18 upset win over the French – that the Azzurri fixture will be a Wooden Spoon decider. Last season, Scotland lost in Rome to finish sixth in the tournament.

“People can say what they like,” Laidlaw said.

“We’ll turn up next week to try to win that game. We’ve got three home games in a row.”