Warren Gatland: ‘There will definitely be more Scots on this Lions tour’

Scotland’s improved Six Nations performance, and in particular their away form, will be rewarded with an increased representation on this summer’s British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland, centre, will be assisted Scotland coaches Steve Tandy, left, and Gregor Townsend, right. Picture: Inpho
Lions head coach Warren Gatland, centre, will be assisted Scotland coaches Steve Tandy, left, and Gregor Townsend, right. Picture: Inpho

Warren Gatland the Lions head coach, said the Scots had “fronted up” by beating England and France on their own grounds.

It was the first time they had won at Twickenham and in Paris in the same season since 1926.

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The tartan cause will be further strengthened by the presence of Gregor Townsend and Steve Tandy in Gatland’s coaching team where they will have a significant say in squad selection.

Lions coach Warren Gatland was impressed by Scotland's win over France in Paris. Picture: Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

Townsend, the Scotland head coach, has been named as attack coach for the tour while Tandy will take charge of defence, the role he has performed with distinction for Townsend over the past 16 months.

The Scots have been the poor relations of recent Lions tours but Gatland rejected any notion that he had looked for excuses to exclude players from north of the border. He cited injurious results of the past, most notably a 61-21 walloping by England at Twickenham ahead of the last tour, to New Zealand in 2017.

“I don’t care where you come from, I want to pick the best players,” Gatland said. “There will definitely be more Scots this time because they have fronted up in the Six Nations.

“Winning away in Paris and at Twickenham is significant because when you are playing for the Lions you are not playing at home.

“Four years ago what was probably damaging to the Scottish players and the Scottish team is that you go down to Twickenham and you get 50 points put on you. That’s not a good look.

“I think they have had a great tournament. In the past 12 months, a number of players have put their hands up. It is not about having excuses it is about picking a squad of players who you think can perform in a Lions jersey away from home on the biggest stage against the world champions. There’s no doubt that there are a number of Scottish players who have definitely impressed us in this campaign.”

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The likes of Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Duhan van der Merwe, Chris Harris and Hamish Watson all enjoyed an outstanding tournament, with the latter being voted player of the championship.

Gatland’s coaching team for the three-Test sojourn to South Africa will also include Leinster’s Robin McBryde, who will take charge of the forwards, and Wales’ Neil Jenkins who returns for his fourth tour as kicking coach.

Gatland had planned to take Andy Farrell, Steve Borthwick and Graham Rowntree, but all three were forced to withdraw.

It means there is no English representation on the coaching team, while England’s worst Six Nations performance on record has also seen Eddie Jones’ lieutenants John Mitchell, Matt Proudfoot and Simon Amor overlooked.

“It’s nothing to do with ‘do I feel like I need an English coach?’, it’s about me picking who I think are going to be the best fit for myself,” Gatland said.

“It is people who I want to work with, people I’ve worked with in the past and people I think will work well as a group.

“No one made an issue of it in the past when we haven’t had Scottish coaches.”

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