Eight Scots – four times more than in 2017 – will be on the British and Irish Lions Tour to South Africa this summer.
Head coach Warren Gatland sprung some major surprises in an enlarged squad of 37, not least the omission of veteran Irish playmaker Jonny Sexton. But he was true to his word that more Scots would be in the squad than the meagre number in 2013 and 2017 under his watch.
Gregor Townsend, the Scotland head coach who will act as Gatland’s assistant on tour, and Steve Tandy, Scotland’s defence coach, have clearly made their voice heard in selection meetings.
Eight tourists is Scotland’s best on a Lions Tour in the professional era, and the most since the tour to Australia in 1989. The last Scot to start a test for the Lions remains Tom Smith in 2001.
Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg will tour with the Lions for the third time, but seven of his colleagues join him. Stand-off Finn Russell would appear to be the beneficiary of Sexton’s omission, while tight-head Zander Fagerson is preferred to England’s Kyle Sinckler.
Scrum-half Ali Price is selected, along with new wing star, the South African-born Duhan van der Merwe. Centre Chris Harris is in a midfield group that is surprisingly missing Wales’ Jonathan Davies.
As expected, Six Nations player of the championship Hamish Watson is included, while Rory Sutherland – although still recovering from injury – is also picked.
Alun Wyn Jones, captain of Wales and picked as a Lion for the fourth time, is the tour captain as expected, even if Maro Itoje’s candidacy to be the first non-white Lions captain, especially in South Africa, had a strong case.
Jones ‘very proud and privileged’
Zander Fagerson. 2021 British and Irish Lion.
Things you love to see 🤩 pic.twitter.com/s2mlB0rPkp
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) May 6, 2021
The 35-year-old lock who skippered Wales to the Six Nations title this year, said he was “very proud and privileged” to be named skipper.
“To be selected is initially what you want to hear as a player,” he continued. “To be captain, you think of the names that have gone before and what they’ve achieved.
“The significance of this honour isn’t lost on me. ‘Custodianiship’ is the word that has been used frequently in the last few tour’s I’ve been on.
“The connection you have with the players in other home nations from being on tour with the Lions is very special and unique.”
Gatland said it was “the hardest, most difficult squad I’ve ever had to pick” and he’d gone one over the mark in picking 37 players instead of the stipulated 36.
Backs – Josh Adams (Cardiff and Wales), Bundee Aki (Connacht and Ireland), Dan Biggar (Northampton and Wales), Elliot Daly (Saracens and England), Gareth Davies (Scarlets and Wales), Owen Farrell (Saracens and England), Chris Harris (Gloucester and Scotland), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster and Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Exeter and Scotland), Connor Murray (Munster and Ireland), Ali Price (Glasgow and Scotland), Lewis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester and Wales), Finn Russell (Racing 92 and Scotland), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh and Scotland), Anthony Watson (Bath and England), Liam Williams (Scarlets and Wales).
Forwards – Tadhg Beirne (Munster and Ireland), Jack Conan (Leinster and Ireland), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter and England), Tom Curry (Sale and England), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow and Scotland), Taulepe Faletau (Bath and Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster and Ireland), Jamie George (Saracens and England), Ian Henderson (Ulster and Ireland), Jonny Hill (Exeter and England), Maro Itoje (Saracens and England), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys AND Wales), Wyn Jones (Scarlets and Wales), Courtney Lawes (Northampton and England), Ken Owens (Scarlets and Wales), Andrew Porter (Leinster and Ireland), Sam Simmonds (Exeter and England), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh and Scotland), Justin Tipuric (Scarlets and Wales), Mako Vunipola (Saracens and England), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh and Scotland).