“That’s ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous,” was Richie Gray’s response when told that his younger brother Jonny had broken the Scottish record for number of tackles made in a Six Nations game with a wince-inducing 28.
“But there you go. It’s just another day in Jonny’s world – unbelievable,” he added of the tackling machine’s feat.
The Gray brothers were once again a pair of colossuses in the engine room as Scotland dazzled then dug deep to beat Ireland 27-22 at BT Murrayfield and get their campaign off to a dream start.
“It feels pretty good,” added Richie, pictured inset. “Everyone is pretty happy, as you’d expect. And it makes a change from what we’re used to – playing well and ending up with a narrow defeat. It’s nice to get the narrow win instead. We’re absolutely delighted by that and we push on now.
“We certainly have a group of players who are very capable of winning. We also have a very solid game plan. And I think we’re a bit smarter now, too, with a bit more belief. That has made the difference. That helped us get the win. I think that helped us when we were under the cosh in the second half. We knew Ireland were going to come at us at the start of the second half, we knew they could hold the ball well and go through an incredible number of phases. We were a bit under the pump.
“I think after their try under the posts, we got together and said ‘look, we just need to get hold of it here’. We managed to do that.”
Jonny agreed with his brother and lock partner that Saturday proved there has been a decisive step forward in mindset.
“The experiences we’ve had before, there’s been a lot of pain in the Scotland shirt,” said the 22-year-old. “It’s how you learn from that. We’ve still got a lot to grow.
“Ultimately it comes down to times like that at the end. It was hard, the boys were tired and sore. It was tough out there. There could have been a moment when we put our heads down but we knew we had to grind and luckily we get the win in the end and we’re absolutely delighted.”
Both brothers are surely now firmly in the Lions mix but all that is on Richie’s mind is Sunday’s second match against France in Paris, where the Toulouse second-row will be up against some familiar faces.
“This is the first step on the ladder. The next step is to go and take on the French in Paris,” said Richie.
“It’s been a while since a Scotland team won over there. I’m looking forward to playing against a few boys I know pretty well. I will give my input when I can.”
Vern Cotter said that France will provide a contrasting challenge than that posed by Ireland. “France offer a different style,” said the coach. “Ireland probably threw only a couple of offloads in the second half, but France are going to start the game with offloads.
“The defensive effort will have to be different, so there will be adjustments in the setpiece. Our scrum was under pressure and we need to solve that quickly. They will have seen that.”
Cotter is not overly concerned by the trouble the Scottish scrum found itself in during the early part of the Ireland game and was pleased how the front row found a way to resolve a situation which was threatening to derail the home team’s hopes.
“Humph [forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys] had seen that there were a couple of simple things to fix up,” explained Cotter. “We were getting caught on the angle and their tighthead was coming in and the loosehead was coming out. It was just a matter of tightening things up. We solved that and that was a good thing.
“That’s part of the apprenticeship at this level. They didn’t want to throw the towel in. They kept working and found a way, which is good.”