Richard Cockerill backs his Edinburgh quartet for Lions selection but knows competition is fierce

Scotland’s Lions contenders face an anxious few days waiting to discover if they have made the cut for Warren Gatland’s 36-man squad but Richard Cockerill believes some of his Edinburgh men deserve to be on the plane to South Africa.

Duhan van der Merwe scored two tries against France to finish as the top try-scorer in this season's Six Nations. Picture: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images
Duhan van der Merwe scored two tries against France to finish as the top try-scorer in this season's Six Nations. Picture: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images

There were just two Scots - Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg - in Gatland’s initial selection for the last tour, to New Zealand in 2017. That provoked an outcry, with former Lions prop Ian McLauchlan even accusing the coach of “not liking people from Scotland”.

Following call-offs, more would eventually join the tour, with Greig Laidlaw, Allan Dell and Finn Russell all linking up with Seymour and Hogg.

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It is expected that Scotland will be better represented this time around after an impressive Six Nations which saw Gregor Townsend’s side defeat England and France away and notch up a record win over Italy.

Hamish Watson in typically combative form for Edinburgh against La Rochelle. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
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Townsend’s presence in the Lions coaching team should also help the cause and Cockerill is hopeful some of his players will be represented.

Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie, Duhan van der Merwe and Rory Sutherland - if he can recover in time from a shoulder injury - are all likely to be in Gatland’s thoughts.

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Cockerill thinks their inclusion would not only be a boost for the players but for the club as well.

“Of course it would be great for Edinburgh to get some guys in the Lions squad, so we will be waiting in anticipation for Thursday lunchtime,” he said. “Hopefully we will at least get a couple in there if we are lucky.

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“Lions tours don't come round that often in guys’ careers. Potentially for Hamish Watson, for example, this may be his only opportunity to be on a Lions tour. He would have been close last time and after his Six Nations, you like to think he has put himself in a good position for selection.

“But also, playing with the world’s best players and playing against the world champions, to bring that experience and know-how back to your team, would always be very welcome.”

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Watson was voted player of the Six Nations but that has not stopped some commentators questioning his credentials, with one even claiming he was too small. That is not an accusation that could be levelled at van der Merwe and Cockerill believes the muscular winger could make a big impression in his native South Africa after an impressive first season with Scotland which saw his score eight tries in ten Tests.

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“The timing for him couldn’t have been better – qualifying to play for Scotland, scoring lots of tries and making lots of metres – he is very quick and very powerful – and there has been some injuries in and around that wing spot with Jonny May being potentially out and George North,” said the Edinburgh coach.

“So, it wouldn’t surprise me if Duhan was well in the mix to get picked. Then there is Suz [Rory Sutherland] who has put himself in the frame, Jamie Ritchie wouldn’t be out of consideration and Watson, so you would like to think that some of those guys are in the mix.

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“But, look, to pick 36 out of all those players, you could easily have none – so it’ll be a nervous half an hour for some guys on Thursday.”

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