At least five Scots deserve a Lions call-up - Ryan Wilson has his say on Warren Gatland’s squad

It is unlikely that last Saturday’s Rainbow Cup match between Glasgow Warriors and Benetton was ever going to be an opportunity for the likes of Zander Fagerson and Fraser Brown to play their way into the 36-man squad for this summer’s British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, but if that pair were in the frame before kick-off then it is entirely possible that the way the game unfolded has torpedoed their chances.

Ali Price impressed for Scotland during the Guinness Six Nations and could be in Warren Gatland's thoughts. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

Warriors were woeful and fortunate to escape with a 46-19 loss, with three late tries after Benetton had taken their foot off the gas providing a respectability to the score-line which the Scottish side scarcely deserved. While Fagerson and Brown were far from the most culpable, they were powerless to prevent this meek surrender to a team which had previously managed just two wins from 18 matches played this season.

Despite this far from promising context, Warriors co-captain Ryan Wilson believes that the club should be represented when head coach Warren Gatland names his Lions squad on Thursday.

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“I’d like to see a couple from Glasgow at least, I won’t say who,” said the veteran back-row. “And from Scotland I’d expect a larger amount than normal. I’d say, at least five, which doesn’t sound a lot to ask for.

Chris Harris' defensive excellence makes him a Lions contender. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

“They’ve shown they can win away from home at Twickenham and in Paris [during the recent Six Nations] so they deserve a chance.”

The other Warriors players who could conceivably be in the frame are second-row Scott Cummings (who has been out of action for six weeks with a hand injury but is hoping to make his comeback in next Friday night’s 1872 Cup decider against Edinburgh at Scotstoun), utility-back Huw Jones (who was always a long-shot even before a foot injury just over a fortnight ago brought a premature end to his season) and scrum-half Ali Price (who played the last half hour of the Benetton match off the bench).

Meanwhile, flanker Hamish Watson, winger Duhan van der Merwe and Jamie Ritchie are the Edinburgh-based players who should be in the frame to make the Lions squad. Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Chris Harris, Sean Maitland and Cameron Redpath – who all play in England – are the other Scottish hopefuls.

Wilson added that while the debate about who will and won’t make the Lions squad is good fun, he and his Warriors team-mates won’t be distracted from their primary objective of dissecting that awful performance against Benetton and doing whatever is necessary to ensure that the team bounce back with a winning performance against their inter-city rivals next Friday night. It is currently one win apiece in this season’s 1872 Cup series, so a victory at home will see Warriors claim the silverware for the first time since 2017.

Cameron Redpath excelled on his international debut against England but injury ruled him out of the remainder of the Six Nations. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

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“We’ve had to take a long, hard look at ourselves – we had a really good meeting on Tuesday morning, which was player-led because ultimately it was down to those 23 men who were on the field. We went through it all, played footage for about 60 minutes, and it came down to poor decision-making and basic skill errors which can be fixed,” said Wilson.

“You have to be really honest in that situation. Nine times out of 10 you’ll have the player who made the mistake putting up their hand up to it, but if they don’t then there’s no doubt someone else will bring it up and ask: ‘Right, what were you doing here?’ And they’ll know it’s not acceptable.

“It’s like a family really. It’s tough on the new guys who have to learn how to deal with it. We had a lot of young guys out there at the weekend and hopefully they learn a lot from that experience. They need to know that’s not acceptable and have that feeling inside them that they never want to go through that again. They’ve had good learnings from that.

“Now we have to make sure we use it as fuel for this tough derby match. We won’t struggle for motivation against Edinburgh, and it will be a good one for us to gauge where we’re at.

“You would hope guys would be chomping at the bit to get involved in this one. We can refer back to the Benetton game and underline the fact that that doesn’t happen again to us this season.”

Warriors head coach Danny Wilson has inevitably been the focus of some scathing criticism since that Benetton result, but Ryan Wilson – no relation – says it would be unfair to jump to any conclusions after a season when the new man in charge has been constantly firefighting.

“From the off, especially in the early months, he’s had to deal with all the Covid stuff. It’s tough for anyone to step into those shoes with everything that was going on, and with the hand he’s been dealt in terms injuries and international players not being around it’s been blow after blow,” he said.

“I think you’ll see a lot more next season of where he wants to go with the squad that he’s building and the signings that are being made.

“That result last weekend ultimately comes down to the players on the field. The preparation was really good. People start pointing fingers at the coach, but Danny is doing a good job here. We didn’t represent that at all on the field last weekend.

“The last five results we’ve won three and had the Montpellier game that got away from us a bit with decisions and cards. The last game came out of nowhere. You get those sometimes.”

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