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Jackson Wray relishing competition in star-studded Saracens back row

Saracen's Jackson Wray runs with the ball against Sale Sharks. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images) Saracen's Jackson Wray runs with the ball against Sale Sharks. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Friday, January 3, 2014
11:51 AM

Jackson Wray is delighted to be getting a run of games for Saracens and is embracing the stiff competition for places in their star-studded back row.

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After making just two starts in Sarries’ first nine matches of the season, Wray is now featuring prominently amid injuries to the likes of Jaques Burger, Mourtiz Botha and Will Fraser.

The 23-year-old has played a part in each of the last six outings and put in a man-of-the-match display in their 64-3 demolition of Zebre in the Heineken Cup last month.

Wray admits it hasn’t been easy forcing his way into contention, but he is eager to continue impressing Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall.

“At the start of the season everyone was fit and it was as competitive as I’ve ever felt a back row in my life, so it was tough,” Wray told London24.

“But I feel like I’ve had a good run in the team over the last few months and hopefully that’s reflected in my selections.

“For me it’s just about performing well and trying to give the coach a hard choice. To be competing against some of those players in the back row, it’s pleasing to be involved as much as I have been.

“You’ve got Will and Billy [Vunipola], who has come in this year and played some unbelievable rugby.

“You’ve got Scotland captain Kelly Brown and Burger, who puts his body on the line every week. It’s an area of strength in the team but that’s good for me. You have to be on your game all the time.

“To be playing in a team that’s performing well every week and is top of the league is really good for me. I’m pleased, things have been going how I was hoping.”

One senior Saracens star who is set to clear the way for the younger generation is former England captain Steve Borthwick, who is retiring at the end of the season after six years at Saracens.

Academy graduate Wray says it has been a privilege to learn from the 34-year-old.

“Steve is someone that you can’t compare to anyone else in the team,” he said. “Coming through and playing under him as a captain has been unbelievable.

“He’s a very intense guy and I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of how to prioritise things, be a professional and get the best out of yourself.

“It’s a shame he’s retiring but he’s been at the top of his game for so long, and he still is now.

“He’s had an amazing career and I’m sure he’s looking forward to putting his feet up. He deserves it and he’s been really good for me as a young player.”

Wray is yet to feature at international level but he is hoping his Saracens form can put him in the England frame.

“Every young player wants to get international recognition,” he said. “There are a lot of players playing well at the moment so it’s very difficult, but it’s important I put myself in the best position I can.

“It’s about keeping it going over January and giving the selectors something to think about.”

Saracens travel to Aviva Premiership rivals Gloucester on Saturday, where they will be aiming for a 10th consecutive win in all competitions.

Sarries have only won once at Gloucester since 2005, but they triumphed 44-12 in the home fixture back in September.

Jackson was speaking at a ‘Train with Under Armour’ event on London’s Southbank.

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