Hamish Watson hopes the inclusion of so many Scots in the Lions squad can inspire the nation’s youth

Hamish Watson is hoping the inclusion of so many Scots in the British & Irish Lions squad can give Scottish rugby a long-term boost by inspiring future generations to take up the game.

Hamish Watson familiarises himself with the Lions jersey. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

Scotland have long been the poor relations of the Lions, regularly providing the smallest contingent of players for the composite side.

Warren Gatland bucked the trend on Thursday when he included eight from north of the border in his squad to tour South Africa in the summer.

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It’s the largest number of Scots to be called up by the Lions since 1989 and Watson hopes his inclusion along with his seven international team-mates can have a positive impact on the nation’s youth.

“When the squad were getting read out it was amazing to see so many Scottish names in there,” said the Edinburgh flanker.

“I think growing up now it will be slightly different for young kids after watching this announcement. Hopefully if us eight Scottish lads can all train and perform well, then who knows how many will actually be in the Test team?

“That’s great for fans watching, if they can fully get behind us, but also for kids watching. When I was growing up, I can’t remember ’97 when we last had a lot of Scots, or ’93 before that.

“For young kids coming up now, they can actually see a lot of Scottish players are getting in the squad. It’s great for them to see people in their country are achieving that. It’s really good for the whole nation.”

Watson was immense for Scotland during the Six Nations, deservedly winning the award for player of the tournament, but not everyone was convinced that he should be on the Lions tour, with one commentator claiming that the openside was too small to take on the Springboks.

“I don’t really mind,” Watson said. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Everyone has got one, some you may agree with, some you don’t.

“The thing with lots of the media stuff, if you believe the good stuff, you have got to believe the bad stuff.

“That’s something I have had to deal with my whole career so it’s nothing new to me, people saying I am small and stuff. So that’s all good.”

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More stressful for the 29-year-old was having the squad read out in alphabetical order, backs followed by forwards, live on television, when your surname begins with W. Watson’s name was the last to be announced.

“It was horrible being at the end because you're trying to work out how many back rowers they’ve already called. In the end they took seven, so I just remember worrying that they’d named so many. It was quite nerve-wracking.

“My missus was crying, I think she was more excited. It was a weird feeling, I wasn’t jumping up and down or anything. It was just shock in a way, because although you think you may have a chance of something, you know how good the competition is, especially in the back row.

“It was one of those ones that, although you see your name getting chucked around, you never really know. I’m so proud and it’s just a massive honour even to be selected in the 37. I am just looking forward to it now.”

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