Harlequins have tied Saracens’ Joe Gray to a permanent deal after the hooker initially rejoined the club on loan in January. The 2014 England international had originally spent eight seasons at Quins, making more than 150 appearances before moving across London to Allianz Park in 2018.

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However, after a dozen Gallagher Premiership and Champions Cup appearances for Saracens who will be in the Championship next season, Gray came back to the Stoop at the start of 2020 on a short term deal that has now turned into something much more ahead of his 32nd birthday in August.

“It was fantastic to be able to return to Quins earlier this season after a stint away,” said Gray on the Harlequins club website. “To be able to sign a permanent deal now is even better. The club has always held a special place in my heart and always will.

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“It’s a really exciting time to be back with Quins. We have a great mix of youth and experience in the squad and I believe we can really challenge for silverware. It’s a great group who have been so welcoming since I have been back, from all the players and coaches especially, led by Paul (Gustard, the boss), who has been amazing since I have arrived.”

Quins were in seventh place in the league and through to the Premiership Cup final when the season was indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. During the lockdown, Gray has undertaken the daunting challenge of completing 200 burpees a day in less than 20 minutes for charity.

He embarked on this challenge in memory of his father, who passed away in March after a battle with bowel cancer, and Gray last week became an official ambassador for Bowel Cancer UK.

Quins boss Gustard is delighted to be keeping Gray on for longer at the club. “Joe is a proven operator at the elite level, a true Harlequin and a real positive influence within the squad as an upbeat character and all-round good guy. 

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“It was clear to me how much he was respected and how loved he was the first day he came back to the training ground by the reaction of the playing group and the support staff.

“He is a committed and talented player who has demonstrated tenacity and perseverance throughout his career battling back from injury. He has been part of multiple winning teams and environments, which is a testament to his abilities.

“In professional sport, it’s important to have a strong blend of experience and youthful belligerence, and players like Joe are critical for the health of a club.

“We are really happy Joe has re-signed as we look to kick on and build a competitive squad to be challenging for silverware on a regular basis. We know he has a lot to offer us, not just on the field.”

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