Now his sights are set on a return to international rugby, but Johnson insists he is not an automatic starter after naming a second-row without Gray for the clash against Ireland on Sunday.
"Richie climbed a mountain to get on that Lions tour last summer but, by his own admission, was a slow starter, and it was the same when he got back," he said. "But there's been a change of form with him.
"He's turned the corner, but nobody has a divine right to play.
"You've got to do the deed, and we thought the combination of Tim Swinson and Jim Hamilton spoke of that."