Scotland lock Richie Gray is ready for the toughest of challenges after recovering from an ankle injury to face world champions New Zealand in Sunday's EMC Test at Murrayfield.
The 23-year-old has not played since Sale's Heineken Cup clash with Cardiff Blues on October 14 - one of two wins for the Sharks this season - but was named in Scotland head coach Andy Robinson's starting XV on Tuesday before passing a fitness test.
"I managed to get my ankle right so I'm fit and raring to go," Gray said. "It's been a tough couple of weeks, just trying to get my ankle back to where I wanted it to be. Thankfully I got it right in time to face New Zealand; it's an opportunity that doesn't come around too often. It will be a pretty tough shift, but I'm looking forward to it."
Gray, who joined Sale from Glasgow Warriors in the summer, thanked the Aviva Premiership side for their support despite their torrid start to the season.
Having not played for a month is far from ideal preparation for a match with the world's best side.
His was not the only injury in the front five ahead of Scotland's first Test since June, when they claimed wins in Australia, Fiji and Samoa, but Gray claims the pack are fit and firing.
Gray, who was awarded his first Scotland Test start against the All Blacks two years ago, added: "There has been a few injuries, but we've certainly managed to do all of our drills and we're very confident going into the game. There's been a real energy around training."
Gray's second row partner Jim Hamilton has required treatment for a rib injury in the build-up, while Scotland's options at prop have dwindled due to a succession of injuries and the fact Euan Murray is unavailable as the match falls on a Sunday.
Geoff Cross is to start at tighthead, Murray's specialist position, with Ryan Grant, the starting loosehead, providing cover.
Gray added: "Ryan Grant's a quality player. He's been scrummaging at tighthead and it went very well. All the boys have confidence that he'll do a job."
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