Six Nations: Richie Gray accepts criticisms from Scotland coach Scott Johnson

Last Updated: 19/02/14 7:02am

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Richie Gray (r): Has been criticised for his defensive work

Richie Gray (r): Has been criticised for his defensive work

Sky Bet

Scotland lock Richie Gray admits he had to become an even bigger man to accept Scott Johnson's criticisms and win back his place.

The 6ft 10in British and Irish Lions international was given just 24 minutes as a second-half substitute against Ireland in the Six Nations opener before being dropped completely for the humiliating 20-0 loss to England a fortnight ago.

Head coach Johnson then told the Castres second-rower he would have to brush up on his defensive work if he wanted his jersey back.

Gray confessed he did not always agree with the Australian, but after finally seeing things from Johnson's perspective he is back in the side to take on Italy in Rome on Saturday.

He said: "It's been frustrating but I'm delighted to be back. It was disappointing to be left out because everyone wants to be involved. The first couple of days, you bump your gums and say, 'Nah, he's not right'.

"But Johnno was right. He wanted me to work defensively, work on the breakdown. You have to take those points on board and all you can do then is work on it.

"Hopefully I've done that and now I've got an opportunity to get back in the team."

Disappointed

Johnson has also responded to the England defeat by leaving out-of-form hooker Ross Ford on the bench as Newcastle's Scott Lawson comes in, while No 8 David Denton is replaced by Johnnie Beattie.

But the Scotland boss insists he does not care about what his critics have got to say following the furious backlash sparked by England's emphatic win.

The heavy defeat was the first time the Scots had failed to trouble the scoreboard against their neighbours since 1978.

Peter Wright, the 21-time capped prop, labelled Johnson a "joker" after the defeat, while ex-England coach Sir Clive Woodward claimed his side would struggle to beat any of the 12 sides playing in the Aviva Premiership south of the border.

Asked about the criticism, Johnson said: "I haven't given it a second thought to be honest. All I care about is the team - did we perform well? We didn't. Should we be disappointed? Yes we should.

"It's amazing - the people that judge you the most know you the least. I am happy with who I am. I'm not changing. And I don't really care what they say about me.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion, I'm not going to hold it against them. The people I care about are the people that are close to us."

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