Gray hopes to stand tall against the All Blacks
Wales lost one up-and-comer yesterday but gained two established names for the weekend's Test against South Africa. The misery at the absence of Sam Warburton will be tempered by the news that Lee Byrne and Ryan Jones will be fit to play against the world champions.
Warburton impressed many against Australia on Saturday, but the open-side's tireless exertions came at a price. The 22-year-old tore a calf muscle and is now almost certain to miss the rest of the autumn series. Wales will rely on the experience of Martyn Williams.
Warren Gatland will name his XV for the Millennium Stadium tomorrow and Byrne, barring any adverse reaction in training to his broken metacarpal, is certain to be included at full-back, with James Hook moving to outside centre. Whether Jones will return from his own calf problems to captain the side from the base of the scrum is debatable.
Robin McBryde, the forwards coach, made some exceedingly positive comments about the blind-side Dan Lydiate and the No 8 Jonathan Thomas and, seeing as a combination of injuries has limited Jones' game time this season, any inclusion in the starting XV may be seen as premature.
Richie Gray's impressive performances for Glasgow this season have earned him a first starting place for Scotland's game against New Zealand, who they have never beaten in 105 years of trying, on Saturday.
He will partner Jim Hamilton in a second-row that Andy Robinson, the Scotland coach, clearly hopes will throw a spanner in the works of an All Black boiler house which functioned at 100 per cent efficiency in the line-out in their 26-16 win against England at Twickenham last Saturday. "Richie has really stepped up and played outstandingly well for Glasgow," Robinson said. "We want him to bring that to the game on Saturday."
Gray will be one of two first-time starters in a Scotland side looking to build on three successive wins on the road: against Ireland at Croke Park in March and against Argentina in Tucuman and Mar del Plata in June. His club-mate Richie Vernon replaces the injured Johnnie Beattie at No 8.
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