Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?
For all that, yes, the selection team didn’t see nationalities but players, and for all that Warren Gatland didn’t really hate Scotland, this was a tipping point for the British and Irish Lions brand north of the border.
Another perceived slight, another embarrassing show of two original selections, then I’d imagine a lot of Scots would discard the notion of the touring team altogether. Some had already.
Putting aside nationalities works for the players, but not the fans
The Originals, 1888
The Invincibles, 1974
The heroes of 1997
The Unbeaten Tours of 2013, 2017
Over to you Class of 2021 – Time to write a new chapter in our history 🦁
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) May 6, 2021
Instead, they might be lured back. The idea that nationalities can be put aside for the Lions is all very good for the squad, indeed it’s a prerequisite. But for the fans, it’s not remotely the same, and Irish outrage at Jonny Sexton and James Ryan’s omission will show it’s not purely a Caledonian affliction.
Eight players is the best Scottish contingent on a Lions Tour since Australia in 1989. Rugby had six more years of being purely amateur left then.
Gatland was true to his word – show some backbone, particularly winning away from Murrayfield, and Scotland’s representation would surely rise. The concept of having “a voice” in selection meetings with Gregor Townsend and Steve Tandy aboard also has held true, despite everyone denying it was a factor yesterday.
"I've been told I'm not allowed to swear so I'll struggle to put it into words!" 🤐
Scotland prop forward Rory Sutherland was shaking with excitement after being named in the British and Irish Lions squad! 🦁 pic.twitter.com/ryQHqe7alU
— Sky Sports Rugby Union (@SkySportsRugby) May 6, 2021
Rory Sutherland (some story from a guy who couldn’t go for a pee without his partner’s assistance three years ago) and Zander Fagerson found spots in the front row. Gatland said that Scotland had the best scrummage in the Six Nations.
Ali Price probably benefitted by Ben Youngs choosing not to tour, but he outplayed him in their only head-to-head this season anyway.
A smile as wide as the Clyde 😃
2021 British and Irish Lions tourist Ali Price gives his reaction 👇 pic.twitter.com/51EFZI4EmC
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) May 6, 2021
Watson, Hogg and van der Merwe were certainties
Hamish Watson was a certainty despite the outlandish and selective trolling of some London journalists. Gatland did indicate he’d have work to do to get to the test side. That’s fine, that’s exactly how it should be.
Stuart Hogg and Duhan van der Merwe, after the way they played in the Six Nations just passed, had to tour. Chris Harris’s stock has grown the more he’s played.
Finn Russell was the one many thought might be a step too far for the arch-pragmatist Gatland. But he’s there instead of Sexton and the coach sung his praises without anyone visibly holding his arm up his back.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) May 6, 2021
Sure there are odd picks here and there, but that’s Lions selections for you. How England have 11 tourists after a dire Six Nations is at least curious. But there are no outright total miscarriages of justice here…well maybe Jonny Hill and/or Courtney Lawes for James Ryan.
Who makes the test team? Who knows? No-one in their right mind prior to 1997 would have picked Scotland’s last starting test match Lion, Tom Smith, and he ended up playing six successive tests for them.
The fact that Scots are there, and in good numbers, is what makes the difference already.