SCRUM Editor Stuart MacLennan looks at the British & Irish Lions selection and which Scots may yet make it to New Zealand:
After a serious of embarrassing leaks, we earlier found out the British & Irish Lions Warren Gatland has selected to travel across the world in June and July in a bid to win a first series against the All Blacks since 1971.
Even the most ‘glass-half-empty’ Scot sat aghast this week as rumour mills went into overdrive surrounding the potential lack of inclusions in the 2017 squad, and sadly this has played out as feared.
Gatland offered Scottish coaches the opportunity to give their tuppence worth by way of joining his backroom staff, but found no takers. Whether or not this has directly contributed to a paltry return of Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour being named, it’s unlikely the Head Coach will divulge; he has certainly been afforded vindication for picking less Scots because of it though.
All is not lost, however. Each and every Lions tour has come to rely on replacements being called up due to the barbaric nature of the sport.
Injuries are the only guarantee on a tour to New Zealand and so we may yet see a few of Gregor Townsend’s first squad being pinched by ‘Gats’.
Those that simply had to have been part of the selection discussion would include Finn Russell, Hamish Watson, Jonny Gray, Alex Dunbar and even Greig Laidlaw, whose season was effectively curtailed in Paris back in February.
Gray is the standout omission, having been lauded for both work rate and ability throughout his still embryonic career, although competition in the second-row is arguably the fiercest of any Lions position in living memory.
Fellow Glasgow Warrior Russell is also unlucky, with only the most ardent of Welshmen surely believing Dan Biggar has had a more influential year at stand-off, while Dunbar was mentioned by Gatland himself when he was up in Edinburgh recently.
Edinburgh’s ferrety flanker Watson was also up against some genuine rugby luminaries and was endorsed by several big names prior to the squad being announced, so he can consider himself still very much in the mix should something befall one of those picked ahead of him.
And Laidlaw, almost the forgotten man, may well have been named had he continued his impressive 6 Nations without interruption through injury. His steely resolve and game management make up for a slight deficiency in other parts of his game, a statement that perhaps represents a microcosm of what the 2017 British & Irish Lions are going to have to draw upon if they are to have any hope this summer.
Much like under Vern Cotter and indeed Gregor Townsend to come, this talented group of Scots shouldn’t be written off and that applies for the Lions as well.
Expect one or two more to join the party over the coming months, ideally impacting on proceedings to the extent that Warren Gatland may admit to getting one or two selection calls wrong in this frustrating first instance.
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