The Edinburgh loosehead admitted yesterday that the call-up had left him overwhelmed.
The serious injury he suffered in 2016 was so severe he needed a bilateral adductor reconstruction. It started off as pain in the groin but he ignored it, fearing he could lose his place in the team. But when he tried to sprint during a warm-up for an Edinburgh pre-season match against Harlequins he suffered a physical breakdown that was so excruciating he was unable to leave the house for two months and had to be looked after by his partner Tammy.
“Going through that time I wondered if I’d ever play rugby again,” Sutherland said. “To be in this position now I’m absolutely over the moon and can’t wait to get stuck in.
“I’d seen it being talked about a lot in the media [Lions call-up] which is nice but to hear it finally being announced is amazing, pretty overwhelming.”
His selection comes with a slight caveat. Sutherland is recovering from a dislocated shoulder suffered in Scotland’s Six Nations win over France in Paris. Rehab is going well but Gatland wants him back in time for the Lions farewell game against Japan at Murrayfield on June 26.
“We know Rory is back doing some training and is not too far away, so it is about keeping an eye on that,” said the Lions head coach.
“With anyone in the squad at the moment, if they are not involved in the [Premiership] finals, it is important that they are in contention for that Japan game.”
Sutherland is confident he will be.
“Everything’s fine,” he said. “It’s getting stronger every day, rehab’s going well and there’s no doubt I’ll be fit for the tour.
“I think we’re going to target four or five weeks from this week [for his return to action].
“I dislocated it against France. I fell on the ground and dislocated it and when I turned over onto my back I popped it back in myself.
“I was X-rayed and I hadn’t done any damage to the bone, there was just a little bit of rotator cuff damage and a little bit of damage to my tricep but nothing major, so it was the best possible outcome. I got away with it. Really lucky.”
Sutherland is one of eight Scots in the Lions squad which just adds to his delight.
“It makes it really special and I think it’s credit to Gregor Townsend and Steve Tandy and the rest of the coaching staff that they’ve managed to get the team to that level,” said the Hawick-born forward. “I’ve really enjoyed working with them over the Six Nations and the autumn Tests.
“It’s a life changing thing getting to do something like this and my wife and kids support me 100 per cent. They’re really proud and absolutely over the moon, the same as me. My wife has organised for my family to come to the house so they’re all just waiting for me downstairs!”