Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scottish Rugby Blog Podcast Episode 10 – Two Lions & Sole


Episode 10 of our podcast is now available. In this episode Cammy, Gav & Rory lose it over the Lions squad selections and we talk to Scotland legend David Sole about leadership and the Lions.

Episode 11 will be available on Monday where we’ll look at how the Lions squad affects Scotland’s summer tour as well as the usual features like “Comment Of The Week” and “Hands In The Ruck”.

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The Scottish Rugby Podcast brings you the best in informal chat and discussion about Scottish Rugby. Each week during the season we put out a 40 minute podcast suitable for all listeners, covering all the latest news and key analysis of the big matches. 

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21 Responses

  1. Guys,
    I’m sorry but you are being too accepting of what has been an unacceptable squad announcement.

    The fact of the matter is that a heavily bias selection committee has overlooked deserved Scottish players. Don’t discuss the frailties of the Scots that missed out, rather the actual absurdity of there only being 2 Scottish players and 12 Welsh.

    We have to stand together and take action. The SRU need to stand up for our players and fans. This kind of tone discourages that.

    Are you aware of the negative impact this kind of minimal Scottish Lions selection has on rugby in Scotland? The Lions pulls in so much public interest in rugby union, and the Scots are left at a clear disadvantage as a result of an unprofessional squad selection panel. They’ve stuck with familiar players without thoroughly researching all options, including Scots.

    This needs to change otherwise the Lions brand is a lost cause in Scotland.


    1. I agree with Nicholas. This came over to me as a low-key, almost submissive and accepting, set of reactions. It felt as if the self-restraint which must have been imposed – understandable in a public broadcast – stopped you from saying what you really, really think about this selection fiasco. I wasn’t expecting to hear you howling like a pack of distempered wolves, but was disappointed by the lack of passion coming across and the absence of any real critique of how the hell six to eight players who shouldn’t be in the squad have found their way in. I’ll bet your off-air discussions were fruitier.
      Good to listen to David Sole’s thoughtful and articulate views on the Lions and captaincy.

      1. how the likes of sinckler is being picked ahead of faegerson can only be biased … same with teo over dunbar , these are very inexperienced players at the top level who have not proven themselfs over 2 players who have generally been consistent strong performances. watson should of went at the very least with the idea gatland wants impact subs , what backrow is going to bring more impact than him ?

        same with kruis over launchberry ? seriously …

        I can understand an argument could be made for henderson but kruis has played less than a handfull of times this season.

        Loosehead and hookers i think he has gotten right, if best gets injured bring in hartley , if one of the other 2 id bring in brown.

        only other thing im questioning is mabey halfpenny over perhaps zebo or kearney.

        any other scots for me were 50/50 or injured, also i dont think jones would of got picked just cause you know … gatland.

    2. I agree. It’s very restrained and doesn’t focus on some of the poor and inexperienced players who are going, neither does it address Gatland’s duplicity and nepotism. Benefit of the doubt does not cover selecting 12 Welsh players and only 2 Scottish. Yes, there are some very good players going, but there aren’t many who are significantly better than the Scottish alternatives, maybe half-a-dozen and they’re mainly in the front row.

  2. Thanks, Gents. Although I understand the other posters’ feelings and have shared them, I don’t believe it’s a corrupt process, just one with weaknesses. Gatland and his team are picking the squad they feel is most likely to win the series and they have made it clear they’re not considering the 4 Nations ethos.

    So, I actually think you’ve hit the right balance of natural emotional response and pragmatism. You hit the nail on the head when you asked whether there should be a wider discussion about the philosophy of the Lions. Is it just another professional experience or something more? If just professional, then there are no absolute clangers in selection, maybe Biggar aside. It’s just when you step back and see the 2 Scots and 12 Welsh that you think it’s messed up.

    Really interesting interview with David Sole as well. When will Part 2 be up?

    1. Part two will be up very late Sunday in time for Itunes etc Monday morning.
      There’ll be more up on the site in the next day or two about the fall out from the Lions squad and we get into it a bit more in part two.
      We were trying to remain objective and when you compare individuals there really are only a few players where you might swap out someone for a Scottish player. That only leaves you with the option of some sort of gentlemens agreement or unspoken quota system and that’s probably unworkable from a coaching point of view. We can always move back to having a selection panel but that throws up its own problems. It might have worked in the amateur days but I’m not sure it’s a good idea now. Who’d want to coach a side in which they had no say over selection?
      I think the Lions will come to regret allowing a sense of apathy to build north of the border by not taking more Scots.

      1. Cammy, I love this blog and I think you guys have done a tremendous job building an online Scottish rugby community, but this is all really dissapointing to hear from you guys. Sorry if that sounds harsh but it’s got to be said.

        There’s no need to revert to the old amateur selection panel system. You can introduce a quota system on any professional
        coaching set up, preferably one that includes members from all 4 nations. This has been a big mistake on the part of the Lions establishment, and they need to be made aware of that.

        It really annoys me when big Scottish rugby names hold back to try an protect their UK PR profile by taking an ‘objective’ tone to what we all know is a farse, but bias fans south of the border would ridicule.

        Like I said, it’s unacceptable and this blog (as well as other Scottish rugby fan communities) need to stand up and force the SRU to take action…together. Otherwise our boys will continue to be sidelined (or left at home in this case), and rugby in Scotland will continue to be disadvantaged to the other three home nations.

        I’d like to say rant over, but I’m still bubbling with rage.

        Going to take a bath and try and fine some zen.

      2. Yeah, heard this explanation trotted out by a few people. Disregarding whether the alternatives would have been Scottish or not the fact remains that in about half a dozen selections there were marginal calls and every single one went to a Welsh player. That is practically the definition of bias. Biggar, Halfpenny, JD2, North, AWJ, Moriarty were all very shaky choices in my opinion. It really is staggeringly biased to select 12 players from the worst performing home Union in 2017. That perception is the real reason Scottish fans are so aggrieved I suspect.

        The coaching panel should have had more respect for the Lions ethos and history than to snub Scottish players. It really shouldn’t have been that hard to swing a couple of marginal calls our way.

      3. Nicholas, they did invite two Scottish coaches on to the team, who declined to join, albeit for very good reasons. I totally agree, though, that Gatland should have had a Scottish representative with them for at least a day to make the case for his players. Surely Vern would have done this if asked.

        Let’s be clear: everyone has a bias. Everyone. It’s absolutely natural and basically unavoidable. The crucial point is that anyone making this kind of decision has to be aware of their bias, and take extra steps to balance it out. Not necessarily by making a different decision ultimately, but by maximising the opportunity for the alternative point of view to be heard. In other words, you go out of your way to hear the case that conflicts with your natural bias.

        “Okay, Vern, convince me why I should take Player X”
        “Vern, tell me why Twickenham shouldn’t rule Player Y out”

        From what we’ve heard, did any of that happen? That’s the real problem here. You can’t have player quotas or it undermines the value of the shirt and other players won’t respect you. I don’t think you can force coaching quotas. But you can make sure you go out of your way to challenge your own biases and it seems Gatland failed to do this.

      4. Perfectly aware of O’Halloran and Townsend’s decisions to concentrate on Glasgow and Scotland, turning down a Lions coaching position. From what I hear, the offers were for roles that were of minimal influence or status, and the dangling carrot was to be part of the Lions and the whole prestige of the whole thing. Sounds like they made the right choice to focus on contractual obligations at the SRU.

        Would it be too far for the Scottish government to launch an enquiry?

        I’ve had a bath to try and find some zen, two sleeps later and I’m still raging at all of this!

      5. “Would it be too far for the Scottish government to launch an enquiry?”

        Yes. It would. Given the numerous serious challenges currently facing the governments of Scotland, the UK and beyond, it would be frankly ridiculous to waste even 1 minute discussing the make up of the Lions touring party.

        Please have another bath, and try running the tap a bit hotter this time.

  3. On a slightly different note,I was saving for years to go on what would be my first ever Lions tour to NZ but as we all know, circumstances change and I had to use my savings elsewhere.
    I am disgusted to say that I’m glad my savings were diverted. How on earth can this be a true reflection of a Lions team?
    We,Scotland are not the best in the world, but we have FAR MORE than two players worthy of a Lions place. All our guys played out of their skins in the six nations beating Ireland and Wales.
    Mr Gatland,Sturgeon may accuse you of being rascist? !!
    The whole selection stinks.

  4. The selection nepotism has deemed me a virtual neutral for the Lions series indeed all I want from a Lions perspective is for Hogg & Seymour to play well remain healthy & get a few Lions caps.

    I don’t know if Gatland grasps the Lions history / importance / the ethos where all 4 home nations gel together & take on the SH giants, Scots rugby fans shouldn’t feel like this, but the majority do.

    Taking Dunbar, Russell, Watson, Fagarson wouldn’t have weakened the squad an iota but would have enlivened the WHOLE nation.

  5. I’m right behind John Martin. Woke up this morning still fuming. As a Glaswegian living in England for 55 years I constantly try to explain why many Scots sometimes feel antagonistic towards the English and here we go again. Nicola will make hay with this. Gatland’s weak reasons for only picking 2 Scots seems to me to ignore the whole Lions ethos. I won’t go so far as to hope they get thrashed but my support has definitely weakened.

    1. What has this got to do with the English? England won the 6N fairly comfortably, and have a deservedly strong representation in the Lions squad. While Te’o and Sinckler are debatable calls, and Kruis has definitely got in on past merit given his injury, I would struggle to criticise the others who made it.

      The problem is a Kiwi coach selecting 12 players from his “day job” team, of whom Moriarty, AWJ, Biggar, Davies, Halfpenny and North have struggled to find any level of consistency this season, and 2 more in Warburton and Tipuric who were played off the park by Hamish Watson, who had an admirable 6N.

      I don’t see any reason why Nicola Sturgeon would feel impelled to comment on this state of affairs, nor make hay with it as you suggest.

    1. That is interesting. Neither GT, JOH or the SRU prevented the Lions from taking Scottish views on selection.

      And also makes the very valid point that we have come from way back to where we are now. Only 2 games in the 6N this year were in the “comfortable” category – Twickenham, and the Wales game. They both were by more than 2 scores. Wales’ win over Ireland wasn’t settled until the last minute. Every other game excluding the Italians was won by 10 points or less. The 6N is a fantastic tournament, and I’m just glad as a Scotland fan, that I can say my team is contributing to that after a number of less than glorious years.

  6. Thanks for the pod gents. For me Gatland has chosen a squad he thinks will succeed with a tour schedule that is bordering on the horrendous. He has gone with players he knows, and who to be fair to the Welsh guys selected, have been successful in the past at least in the 6N. Gatland obviously feels that he does not have the time to experiment, or work with “new” players. That is his call, and his stock as a coach will rise or fall as a result of this – the last Lions coach to do this was Woodward, also in NZ, with an ageing English contingent. History repeating itself?

    The squad itself looks very strong up front to me, but slightly one dimensional in the backs, particularly in the midfield. Unless there is a cunning plan afoot it would seem that Gatland intends to have the Lions impose themselves physically on the ABs in all aspects of play. The trouble with that approach is that the ABs have been able to cope with this previously. We shall see how it goes.

    There has been a lot of chat about player or coaching quotas. Errant nonsense. If you have a player who is taken purely to fill a quota how much respect do you think that player will garner from his peers? What would be a more sensible approach is to look at the overall balance of the tour, and where a 50/50 call has to be made, then consider players that might otherwise be outside the coaching teams comfort zone. So as John Martin suggested above – taking Russell instead of Biggar, Fagerson instead of Sinckler, etc, would not have weakened the squad, but would have made it feel more like a partnership rather than a tag along.

  7. Also meant to add that I really enjoyed the views of David Sole. Although perhaps you could get him a wee bag of cough sweeties to help with his throat :)


  8. The situation regarding a number of the Welsh players selected brings to mind a similar policy from the 2005 tour when the coach went for players of whom he had personal experience and who he trusted. Unfortunately the best playing days of a number were behind them and the tour served merely to expose their decline from their peak.
    Most on this sight can see that Wales as a team have peaked and significant rebuilding is required. Anyone who regularly watches Scrum 5 knows that Welsh commentators and supporters have been pressing for for renewal, particularly in the back division. With team rebuilding increasingly being aligned to the RWC cycle, Wales should have brought in Sam Davies and co. as starters this season but the coaches for whatever reason have stuck with the battle-hardened with a history of Grand Slam winning, who compete like the old pros they are but who lack the vim and vigour of their youth.
    Thanks to Cotter, Scotland are at least a year ahead in the development of the team. The fact that he inherited a team with a recent history of failing made it easier to effect the transition he has undertaken.

  9. My main gripe is the overall way pundits and media have effectively counted Scotland’s poor performance in the Six Nations (England) as a trump to the other four pretty strong performances and in the same breath dismissed England’s poor performances (Italy, Ireland and in many ways Wales) as mere lack of concentration or ‘hey they didnt play real rugby so it doesnt count?’ England came to the Scotland game with two well closed out but ultimately poor overall performances and a very ropey bonus point win. No other team struggled with Italy like England did. I could see Ireland’s dominance coming before the 4th round. It didn’t translate on scoreboard but Ireland beat them with loads to spare.

    Ireland lost to Scotland not cause Scotland were dominant on the day and I’d say they were fortunate to win that match albeit with bucket loads of grit and determination and never say die. But closing out games and winning ugly is what England are praised for. We get ‘You better back this up’ which is so many ways we did in Paris. That was heroic in so many ways with the injuries suffered.

    Again Ireland get so much praise for their final performance against England (quite rightly) but their away form against teams who were competing with them Wales and Scotland wasn’t ideal but it’s washed over due to the England game. Yet folks have dismissed the French Test for Scotland and majored on the England game. And if you look at it Scotland probably should have got the fourth try and finished 2nd outright. No one else came close to bonus trying England but again not of value.

    Then we have Wales. Strong against England but ultimately did what Scotland teams of the football variety have done over the years snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Italy match was ok but the only team not to get a bonus against them in the competition.

    Then they come to Scotland and lose 20 unanswered points and don’t score in a whole half. Scotland have failed to score much in halves of rugby over the years and have been hounded out for it rightly but Wales…? Ah yes you dominated Ireland so all is forgotten. France was a very strong performance too but ultimately a losing one. Scotland would have been told… ‘ yes you worked hard but you lost so doesn’t count’ For Wales lions come on in and take 12 spots on the tour.

    If this comes across as bitter then it’s not meant to be it’s about perception and I’m not sure how much you can argue with here. If people were fair in their assessments and gave praise and flack as they should then we’d have a more even spilt.

    It’s not about individuals being picked or not but I think Scotland had more positive performances based on the above than any other team in six nations and it’s counted for very little at all.

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