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Alex eager to cap scoring exploits; Falcons young gun on England duty after Premier 'first'.

Byline: MARK SMITH

HAVING scored with his first touch of Aviva Premiership rugby on Friday, Newcastle Falcons' flanker Alex Gray is back on the international trail tomorrow.

The 19-year-old captains England Under-20s as they home in on silverware, with the undefeated outfit two games away from Grand Slam glory. They take on Scotland Under-20s in Newbury, at the same time as his club-mates are in LV= Cup semi-final action against Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop.

"There was obviously going to be a clash of interests with both games being on the same night, but it's out of my control really," said the ex-Barnard Castle schoolboy.

"It has been decided that I'll be playing for England rather than the club but, whichever way the decision had gone, I would obviously be giving it everything for that particular team."

Reflecting on his tryscoring introduction for the Falcons in last weekend's 33-18 league win over Harlequins, he said: "It was an awesome feeling to be involved in my first Premiership game, and I got off to a dream start really by scoring with my first touch of the ball.

"It was a special night, and something that I will always remember. I felt as if I contributed quite well - we got three good tries in the second half and I was keen to show that I can mix it at that level."

Comparing the top flight to his age-group international standard, Gray said: "The game-play is pretty much the same, and the speed of the match is not that much faster.

"The size of the players is probably the biggest difference, and the amount of force it takes to move them off the ball, but the more games I play there the more I will get used to it."

Just two wins away from a clean sweep after skippering England to victories over Wales, Italy and France, the back-rower said: "Of course you start getting asked about the Grand Slam, but we'll leave that talk for other people and just get on with trying to win the next game.

"We've got loads and loads of pace throughout the team, and we've got a great mix. There are no real egos despite the fact that more than half of the squad has played Premiership rugby. It's a good bunch of lads and we just want to work hard for each other."

Up against a Scotland side including Northumbria University hooker David Cherry, Gray said of tomorrow's opponents: "We've had a bit of a look at them on the video, and we know they will be physical.

"We expect them to be passionate and organised. They will wear their hearts on their sleeves and it will be a good test."

Admitting that he will wait until after the Six Nations before considering his own future and the offer of a contract extension at Newcastle, Gray insisted regional pride was a key motivation in skippering his country. He said: "It just goes to show there is plenty of talent in the North East, and that the junior scene up there is really vibrant."

SMART ALEX England captain Alex Gray will be hoping for more glory when he leads out England Under-20s against the Scots tomorrow night

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SMART ALEX England captain Alex Gray will be hoping for more glory when he leads out England Under-20s against the Scots tomorrow night
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 10, 2011
Words:565
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