URC Grand Final: Richie Gray says Glasgow Warriors are ready to run with the Bulls

Veteran second-row believes a tight, physical contest will come down to who blinks first

Richie Gray says that Glasgow Warriors will travel to Pretoria confident in their ability to cause an upset against Bulls in Saturday's URC Grad Final. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Richie Gray says that Glasgow Warriors will travel to Pretoria confident in their ability to cause an upset against Bulls in Saturday's URC Grad Final. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

RICHIE GRAY’s rugby career has taken in the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour, 79 caps for Scotland, club spells with Sale Sharks in England, Castres in France (with whom he reached the Top 14 play-off final in 2014) and Toulouse also in France (where he eventually won the championship in 2019).

It’s fair to say that this is not his first rodeo, but that won’t diminish his hunger to win something tangible with his hometown club of Glasgow Warriors when they head to Pretoria next Saturday evening to take on the Bulls in the URC Grand Final.

Neither will this be the 34-year-old’s last rodeo with the veteran second-row having signed a contract extension last March which will keep him at Scotstoun for the “foreseeable future” – but there is no escaping the march of time and he recognises that not too many more opportunities like this are likely to cross his path before he eventually does hang up his boots.


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“It’s a big opportunity and it is something we want to do as a club,” said Gray, a low-key character off the field, who quickly tries to divert attention away from himself and onto the wider group.

“It has been a massive squad effort. The boys work bloody hard and it is great to see so many guys growing. When you see Max Williamson come off the bench and throw his body about like that, it is superb.

“So, the squad has really grown through working hard, but we don’t deserve anything – you need to fight for the win if you want to lift trophies.

“It would be great, but let’s not get carried away. We have to go down there and put in a performance.”

There has never been any doubt about Glasgow’s threat in broken play and ability to strike from anywhere on the park, but they also have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot at times in recent seasons, through damaging lapses in concentration and/or a lack of pragmatism.

However, during the last two weeks – against the Stormers at home in the URC quarter-final and Munster away this weekend – there has been a steely resolve and ruthless game strategy which suggests that that they might just be ready to cause a major upset against the Bulls in Pretoria.

“I think we’re maturing as a side,” agreed Gray. “I think last week was really good for us. Stormers are a really tough team – really physical – and it was a really tight game, so it was just a case of who was going to crack first.

“And it was a similar situation this week in that it was really tight and came down to who could make it count when they got a chance.

“We’re really happy with our game-plan, and we know that if we stick to it and capitalise when we can get opportunities, then we’ve got what it takes to see the game out.”

“The Bulls is another big challenge – it is a physical challenge – and it will be tight again so will probably come down to who blinks first. We just need to stick to what we do and hopefully come out on the right side of the result.”

 

 

Gray also agreed that Munster’s achievement last season of lifting the URC title by beating the Bulls on their own patch after finishing the regular season fifth in the table should provide his own team with inspiration, and added that the fact Warriors lost by seven points at Loftus Versfeld just over a month ago will not cause the team undue anxiety.

“We’re a bit of a different side now to the one which faced the Bulls a few weeks ago, but I’m sure the guys who played that day will take some good learnings from that, and a lot of confidence from the last 20 minutes when we started tom play our brand of rugby and scored some good points.

“It will be a tough game after they got a great result against a really strong Leinster side [in the other URC semi-final]. We know how good they [Bulls] are, so let’s see what happens.”

It is a shame that the cost and time demands of a 13 hour flight to South Africa means that Warriors are unlikely to have much of a support to cheer them on this Saturday, but Gray points out that this is nothing new in a league which spans two hemispheres.

“It would be great to have some Glasgow support, but it was a hostile environment against Munster, so to come here and get the job done, despite going down to 14 men twice, is a statement,” he reasoned.

“If you are playing Munster at Thomond Park, you have to go toe-to-toe, you can’t stand back and let them dictate. You probably shouldn’t get yellow-cards because that doesn’t make it any easier, but it was physical, it was confrontational and the boys barred up,” added Gray, who was one of the senior players who led from the front in that confrontational battle.

“Some of our work at the breakdown was excellent – Munster caused us a few issues with their counter-rucking and coming through on the nine, but we did the same to them. They couldn’t get the ball flowing. How many balls did they have to knock back, meaning Craig Casey and Jack Crowley were having to scramble, so I think we did really well there.

“We’ll have to do the same again next week because we can’t let the Bulls play.

“We can maybe take some comfort from being there a few weeks ago meaning that it is fresh in our mind what to expect.”

“We spoke at length last week about how we handle pressure. It’s a bit of a weird thing to say but you can almost want it too much and you do things out of character, whereas it should be about sticking to our game-plan, playing to the best of our ability, and hopefully that is enough to come out on top.

“The boys can’t wait to get on a plane and get down there because we’re ready for the challenge. How lucky are we to be in a situation where we can go down and have a crack at the Bulls for a final in the URC? It is fantastic and hopefully we can put a performance in to make everyone proud”


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About David Barnes 4028 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

2 Comments

  1. It’s good to see Richie in a great Warriors team. Time to bring Jonny back soon as well. Have them both in the Scotland team.

  2. Good luck in the final Glasgow (Edinburgh fan)the Bulls are a solid team.If the games like both semi finals that’ll be great advert for the league.

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