Scotland have been poorly represented in Lions squads in recent years, with only two originally selected for the 2017 tour of New Zealand. Three more joined later due to injuries and call-offs.
The Scots play Gatland’s former team Wales in Llanelli on Saturday and the Lions coach will be watching keenly. Scotland have not won in the Principality for 18 years.
With the exception of Italy, their away record against the other Six Nations sides is poor. It’s ten years since they tasted victory in Ireland, 21 years since they beat France in Paris and you have to go back to 1983 for Scotland’s last win at Twickenham.
“We know how hard Scotland are to beat at Murrayfield but it is important as a group that they play well on the road as we are playing South Africa on the road,” said Gatland. “We are playing the world champions away and we want players that are mentally tough to handle the pressure.”
Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg were named in the original Lions squad for New Zealand three years ago and they were later joined by fellow Scots Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell, Allan Dell. But none of the five took part in any of the three Test matches in the tied series.
Gatland denied he had an axe to grind with Scotland.
“I don’t go round being negative about teams or players,” Gatland said in an interview in the Daily Mail.
“I got a lot of criticism for leaving Brian O’Driscoll out (of the final Test against Australia in 2013) and I was anti-Irish at that stage. It is about picking the best players.
“Selection is a matter of opinion. I don’t select the team solely. It is the five coaches. It is very much a constructive debate about the squad and everybody has a huge input as a group and we make decisions collectively.
“It is not just me to be singled out and said that I am anti-Scottish, which I think is a little bit unfair. I am a great believer in that we must have a representation from all four nations, that is hugely important.
“I hope Scotland do perform well in this autumn campaign and the Six Nations and, if they do, it makes it a hell of a lot easier for us to pick them.
“There is no anti-Scottish sentiment from me. I definitely want them to do well and I want to take as many of their players that deserve to go on the tour as possible.”
The Lions have unveiled their new kit for the 2021 tour of South Africa. Manufacturers Canterbury say the jersey is the Lions’ “most sustainable ever”, with the main body made up of 100 per cent recycled polyester.
The Lions will play Japan at BT Murrayfield on Saturday 26 June before heading to South African for the three-Test tour.