Alex Gray vows to improve on slow start with London IrishBy Alan Manicom
July 13, 2012
Alex Gray has vowed to improve on a stop-start first season with London Irish – and force his way into international reckoning.
The former England Under-20s captain admits to having made halting progress since his arrival from Newcastle Falcons.
And he is desperate to up his game and follow in the footsteps of his Exiles’ contemporaries Jonathan Joseph, Alex Corbisiero and Jamie Gibson, who are in Stuart Lancaster’s Elite Player Squad.
He said: “I’ve seen players around me who are the same age achieving things constantly. Jonathan Joseph, a close friend, has gone on to play for England, and Jamie Gibson went on the tour to South Africa this summer as well.
“When you see friends who are around the same age do that you think ‘Why aren’t I doing this stuff?’ That’s why I’m determined to get myself as much game time as possible with London Irish and see where that takes me.”
When Exiles beat Leicester Tigers and Wasps to Gray’s signature last summer, he was regarded as one of the brightest young talents in the country. But the 6ft 5in back-row forward made just eight starts for Irish last season with nine substitute appearances.
He said: “I had the kind of season a lot of players are used to. You pick up a few little niggles, fall out of favour, get yourself back in, only to pick up another niggle. It was up and down all the way.
“I had a really good run at the start, but fell out of selection around Christmas time and the team wasn’t doing so well either. It wasn’t the greatest of times at London Irish. But towards the end of the season I got myself back in the team and stayed there and we picked up a few wins.”
Gray insists he was right to leave Newcastle, adding: “It was the change I needed and made me open my eyes. I’m ready to work hard this year.”
And he returns to action tonight with Irish when they compete in the first round of the JP Premiership Sevens at the Stoop (7.30pm kick-off).
Gray continued: “It’s going to be the first run-out for a lot of people for a long time. I haven’t properly played sevens since my last year of school. The first game will be tough on my lungs, but it’s good to build fitness and see where you’re at in terms of skills.”
Tomas O’Leary and Sailosi Tagicakibau have been drafted into Irish’s 12-man squad, replacing Luke Peters and Ofisa Treviranus, who was due to captain the side.
Exiles will now be skippered by Tagicakibau, one of the club’s 2009 Middlesex Sevens winning team.
Irish will battle it out with Wasps, Saracens and hosts Harlequins with the top two clubs qualifying for the final at Bath on August 3.
London Irish: 1 Alex Gray, 2 Chris Hala’Ufia, 3 Shane Geraghty, 4 Tom Homer, 5 Topsy Ojo, 6 Michael Worrincy, 7 Gerard Ellis, 8 Darren Allinson, 9 Steven Shingler, 10 Tomas O’Leary, 11 Conor Gaston, 12 Sailosi Tagicakibau (c).
7.30 London Irish v Harlequins, 7.55 London Wasps v Saracens, 8.25 London Wasps v London Irish, 8.50 Harlequins v Saracens, 9.20 London Irish v Saracens, 9.45 London Wasps v Harlequins.