ANDY Irvine has urged Scotland’s players to seize the chance to claim places in the British & Irish Lions squad for next year’s tour of Australia and hinted that the national team could quickly escape from its current poor run of form.
The Lions management selected a hypothetical squad on Tuesday night, judging on current form and omitting from consideration any player currently injured. The squad has not been named but it almost certainly has minimal Scots representation after the recent losses to New Zealand, South Africa and Tonga which cost head coach Andy Robinson his job.
But Irvine, the Lions tour manager, yesterday looked back to the run-up to the last tour, when only four Scots were in the squad, and suggested that things could be different this time. “In 2009 Scotland had a super Autumn series and then a very poor Six Nations, and consequently probably lost four or five players to the tour,” he said. “It might be the very opposite this time. Only time will tell.
“The selectors sat down yesterday and looked at a shadow side. I think there will probably be 30, 40 per cent changes from the team that was pencilled in yesterday to the one that boards the plane at the end of May.
“There are a lot of players coming back from injury and, if they hit anything like the form we’ve seen in the past two or three years, they’ll be in serious contention. And I’ll be very surprised if one or two youngsters don’t emerge during the Six Nations.”
Irvine was speaking at Hopetoun House in South Queensferry as Lions head coach Warren Gatland confirmed that he will be assisted by Graham Rowntree, Rob Howley and Andy Farrell.
The latter has been preferred to Shaun Edwards, Gatland’s assistant with Wales.
Scotland’s James Robson will again be the tour doctor.