Rory Sutherland and Chris Harris: Why it is particularly gratifying to see Lions show faith in Scotland duo

The inclusion of eight Scots in Warren Gatland’s Lions tour party is more than most expected – but it is important to add to some perspective.

Scotland’s Chris Harris (left) and Rory Sutherland are in the Lions squad
Scotland’s Chris Harris (left) and Rory Sutherland are in the Lions squad

The contingent from north of the border is still the joint lowest in the squad along with Ireland. Eleven England players have been selected, despite Eddie Jones’ side losing to Scotland, Wales and Ireland in the Six Nations for an inverse Triple Crown.

Wales, who won the Championship, supply the next biggest contingent with ten.

But you would have to be a special sort of curmudgeon not to rejoice in the largest Scotland Lions contingent in 32 years, particularly when you consider recent history.

Only two Scots were named by Gatland in his original squad to tour New Zealand in 2017 and just three in 2013 when the Lions visited Australia. More were called up after injuries and withdrawals but Scotland has been the poor relations of the Lions family for too long.

The inclusion of Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Hamish Watson had been expected, but it is particularly gratifying to see Gatland show faith in players such as Chris Harris and Rory Sutherland.

Harris, the Gloucester outside centre, has long been a cornerstone of Gregor Townsend’s Scotland side. An unflashy performer, he delivers efficient defensive excellence and is as consistent a player as any coach would wish.

While the likes of Hogg and Russell will grab the headlines, Harris helps give them the platform to perform.

Sutherland, the Hawick-born Edinburgh prop, injured his shoulder in Scotland’s win over France in Paris in the final match of the Six Nations. He is currently undergoing rehabilitation and may well be unavailable for the Lions’ farewell match against Japan at BT Murrayfield on June 26 but Gatland has given the loosehead the vote of confidence.

The call-ups for fellow prop Zander Fagerson, scrum-half Ali Price and winger Duhan van der Merwe again reflects Scotland’s improved form in the last two seasons under Gregor Townsend.

Gatland had challenged the Scottish players to prove they could win big matches away from home and they responded this season with wins in Wales, England and France.

Tighthead Fagerson has been one of the most consistent performers in dark blue, while Price has grown in confidence since inheriting the No 9 jersey from Greig Laidlaw.

Van der Merwe has enjoyed a remarkable breakthrough season at international level, finishing the Six Nations as the tournament’s top try scorer. His record of eight tries in ten Test matches persuaded Gatland that he should be part of the squad despite his relative inexperience.

While concerns remain over his defensive robustness, his attacking prowess secured his place on the tour.

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