The six Lions spots being contested by Ireland and Scotland players 4 weeks ago

The six Lions spots being contested by Ireland and Scotland players

"Warren, you didn't pick too many Scots the last two times. No excuses this time, eh?"

Of all the questions to get thrown at British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland, on Tuesday, this one got his back up the most.

There has not been much Scottish representation on recent Lions Tours and one would have to search even harder to find of Test Lion. Ross Ford in 2009, Richie Gray in 2013. Not a sinner in 2017.

The Scots have grumbled - of course they have grumbled - but they have not had much cause for complaint. And, in fairness, Hamish Watson was set for the 2017 until he got injured, and Stuart Hogg would have played in the Test Series until his cheek collided with Conor Murray's skull in a warm-up game.

"I don’t care where you come from," Gatland declared after that 'no excuses' question. "I want to pick the best players.

"There will definitely be more Scots this time because they have fronted up in the Six Nations. Winning away in Paris and at Twickenham is significant because when you are playing for the Lions you are not playing at home.

"Four years ago what was probably damaging to the Scottish players and the Scottish team is that you go down to Twickenham and you get [61] points put on you. That’s not a good look.

"They have had a great tournament. In the past 12 months, a number of players have put their hands up. It is not about having excuses, it is about picking a squad of players who you think can perform in a Lions jersey away from home on the biggest stage against the world champions. There’s no doubt there are a number of Scottish players who have impressed us."

Stuart Hogg of Scotland is tackled by Ireland's Keith Earls and Garry Ringrose. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

With Gregor Townsend [Scotland head coach] and Steve Tandy [Scotland defence coach] now confirmed on the Lions coaching ticket, many Scots will be anticipating much more call-ups for their players. In our estimation, their best hope would be eight players getting called up.


There will be several close calls, though. In six cases, the final slots may be a straight shoot-out between Irish and Scottish players.

Assuming that Stuart Hogg and Hamish Watson are the two nailed-on Scotland selections, here are the other positions up for debate.

Andrew Porter vs. Zander Fagerson

The final tighthead spot. A close call if you are going for a specialist No.3. Porter's ability to cover loose-head, however, gives him the edge. VERDICT: PORTER

Jonny Gray vs. Iain Henderson

Gray is a tackling machine, and rarely misses one. He had a decent Six Nations and is part of a Chiefs team that often throws its' weight around. Henderson is in great form and was up there as one of Ireland's best players of the Six Nations. Can also cover blindside. VERDICT: HENDERSON

Conor Murray vs. Ali Price

Gatland has stated how he was keeping a close eye on away form. Price played all 80 minutes of Scotland's impressive away win over France and his motor kept revving. Murray has Lions pedigree and showed up big-time against England. VERDICT: MURRAY


Finn Russell vs. Johnny Sexton

This one all rests of squad numbers and if Gatland sees Owen Farrell as a 10 or 12 for this tour. Dan Biggar has done all he can to get selected, so Gatland may be left with a tough choice. If he can take both, he will. If he must choose, the more accurate Sexton surely goes. VERDICT: SEXTON

Garry Ringrose vs. Chris Harris

Harris has come steaming up on the inside rail after an impressive Six Nations and good club for with Gloucester. A burly and fast centre, he would be up for the fight in South Africa. Ringrose is a defensive leader for Leinster and Ireland, and also capable of real magic. May need to return by months' end to convince the Lions coaches. VERDICT: RINGROSE

Duhan van der Merwe vs. Keith Earls

Two guys that have done all they can to get the attention of the Lions coaches, but who may both miss out in a tough selection cut. Van der Merwe is a big winger that makes line-breaks for fun. Earls is evergreen and back up his Six Nations form with two tries against Toulouse. VERDICT: VAN DER MERWE