Chris Harris deftly handles question on his unexpected Lions call-up
He's a big man, but there is a certain grace there.
Between mid March and early May, many of us had a crack at selecting our British & Irish Lions squads. Chris Harris featured in a few, but no-one was overly confident he would make the final cut.
The Gloucester centre has 28 caps for Scotland, with him he qualifies to play for through his grandmother, but only 16 of them as a starter. He has scored only three tries for the Scots, with his last coming 11 Tests ago against the Italians.
The stars aligned for Harris over the first batch of 2021 months, however. Scotland beat England and France away, and should have beaten eventual winners Wales too. Warren Gatland then named two Scotland coaches in his back-room staff. Crucially, though, he was in fine form for club and country.
Still, when Gatland's 37-man squad was announced, on May 6, here were some of the centres excluded:
- Jonathan Davies
- Garry Ringrose
- Henry Slade
- Manu Tuilagi
Harris, Bundee Aki, Jack Conan and Jonny Hill were the four biggest surprises in a squad Gatland and his coaches convinced can put it up to the world champion Springboks.
In his first press rotation for the Lions, Harris was asked about a call-up that only a minority were predicting. "I wondered, before you found out you were on the shortlist," Harris was asked, "whether you were on your own list?"
After a flummoxed immediate reaction to the question, Harris composed himself. "I'm just delighted to be selected. It is an honour.
"If I wasn't on other people's list, that's fine. Ultimately, I've been given an opportunity and it is one I am going to grasp, and do all I can to prove my worth."
"Getting picked was a really special moment," he added. "It was a moment that I was able to enjoy with some friends [at Gloucester] and one I'll never forget. I wouldn't forget it anyway, but to have the boys around me and jumping on me was special."
Harris could well find himself paired up with Connacht and Ireland centre Aki after his left-field selection. A Grand Slam winner with Ireland in 2018, Aki only featured in one 2021 Six Nations game, against England, and was sent off.
He had a decent, post-lockdown return to rugby for Connacht and will be eyeing a Test spot now. Robbie Henshaw looks nailed-on for one midfield berth, so it could be Aki vs. Harris to partner the Leinster centre in South Africa.
"Bundee is one of many guys I'm looking to get to know more, and play with. He's a quality player and was training well today. It's early days yet but we'll both have plenty more opportunities [to impress] for sure."
Another question the Carlisle-born Harris skilfully avoided was about Friday's Euro 2020 clash between Scotland and England.
"It will be on in the team room, no doubt... all the football will be on there, when possible, and all the boys that are into football will be down watching it."