British and Irish Lions: Hamilton out to impress

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SCOTLAND lock Jim Hamilton hopes he can give British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland food for thought when the Barbarians provide the opposition in Hong Kong today.

The giant second-row impressed during the RBS Six Nations Championship this season and is on Lions standby after being overlooked for the initial squad. The disappointment has dissipated as Hamilton prepares to play for the Baa-Baas yet the Montpellier-bound Gloucester man is determined to make a lasting impression.

“I was extremely disappointed to not be going on the Lions tour,” said 6ft 8in Hamilton. “It’s a boyhood dream. Every guy who plays professional rugby, who is British, it’s a dream for them. My form in the Six Nations was the best it has been. I couldn’t have asked for any more, personally, of myself and as a team, for Scotland, we did reasonably well. I thought I put myself in a good position and then a guy called Paul O’Connell came back and played well. That [disappointment] subsided and you just have to move on. To get the opportunity to play for the Baa-Baas, I wouldn’t even say it’s a secondary thing for me. I’d say it’s on a par with playing for the Lions.”

Hamilton admits his combative approach may not be ideal if the Lions are planning an expansive outlook in Australia, yet he still believes he has plenty to offer should a late call-up occur. A discussion with Lions forward coach Graham Rowntree explained the selection, but Hamilton will be ready to fly to Australia from Scotland’s tour to South Africa, if required.

Hamilton added: “I’ve got to be realistic about things – the type of game they want to play, the team they’re playing, the grounds they’re going to be playing on there. Are they going to suit me 100 per cent? They are probably not. I was disappointed. I had a chat with Graham about it, and he said ‘this is the way that the land lies’.

“Mentally I’m fresh, physically my body’s in good shape and I’ve got a few big weeks coming up. I got a [standby] letter. If I’m playing and playing well, it goes well in Hong Kong, I go on the Scotland tour after and that goes well, I’d like to think if someone goes down then I am in with a shot. But you never know.”

Three Scots were named in the original playing party – Richie Gray, Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland – and they all start today. Hamilton has tipped Gray to show his best form after a challenging year at Sale Sharks.

“Richie has been disappointed with the way he’s gone this year, but form is temporary, class is permanent,” Hamilton said.