Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Why Scotland will dominate the 2021 Lions Tour of South Africa

Lions crest

We are delighted to announce that we have signed up a new “Mystery Pundit” to write for the blog. His (or her) identity is known only to a small handful of people and will remain a closely guarded secret. Using the cloak of anonymity our highly regarded and influential pundit will be able to express their opinion more freely than if we used their real name. They will be writing for us on an off over the coming months and whilst their views may not always reflect those of the Editors of the blog they are sure to stir up plenty of debate.

Now that the World Cup is over every square inch of the Northern Hemisphere rugby press will be given over to the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2021. The tribal tendencies of ex-players and a few hacks with inflated opinions of themselves will offer no real insight into rugby but simply regurgitate the same names again and again.

The truth is that this tour will be entirely different to the last two tours under Lions head coach Warren Gatland. Gatland is now free of the political influence of the WRU and will be operating outside the British and Irish media bubble where opinions of English journalists such as Stephen Jones carry more weight than they deserve.

Unencumbered by the pressured put upon him on previous tours Gatland is now free to pick as he sees fit without having to play to the crowd. So where which nations stand to win and which stand to lose when it comes to the final Lions squad?


There’s no denying that England choked. Warren Gatland doesn’t like chokers. If English players can’t stand up and be counted in a World Cup final against South Africa how will they cope over the course of a three match Lions test?

The truth is that England benefitted from having some extra rest time after their game against France was called off and aside from putting in one performance against an ageing All Blacks side and blowing away one of the worst Australian sides in living memory they did little to write home about.

Outside Owen Farrell, who’s temperament and defence remains questionable, and Maro Itoje, who flatters to deceive it’s hard to see many England players escaping dirt traker status. Much has been made of Curry and Underhill but there are many better options elsewhere who won’t crack under Bok pressure.


Gatland no longer has to select Wales players for Lions tours based on a misplaced sense of loyalty or internal pressure from the WRU.

He has done his successor no favours in leaving behind and aging and broken Wales team only able to play one style of rugby. A style that came up short against the Springboks.

No doubt Liam Williams and George North will come into the reckoning but you can’t count on either lasting a full tour with their history of injuries. Josh Navidi and Aaron Wainwright are likely to be there or thereabouts but are likely to be the exception rather than the rule.


Another side liable to choke when it comes to the big stage. Their performance against an All Blacks side that were later easily beaten by a mediocre England was abysmal and the loss to Japan was inexcusable.

They have little in the way of real talent coming through having to rely instead on old man Best dragging himself through another tournament at the age of 36.

They have also had to plug their talent gaps with a series of mediocre Southern Hemisphere imports, notably from South Africa. If CJ Stander and Jean Kleyn weren’t good enough to play for the Springboks when the Boks were struggling they’re not good enough to beat the current World Champions.

In the backs Ireland continue to rely on Sexton and Murray and crumble whenever they’re not on the pitch and there’s no outstanding candidate ready to come in and take over in either position.

Elsewhere Irish talent has a habit of exploding onto the international stage only to fade into mediocrity or injury ravaged hell.

They might have to even consider taking the “Irish” out of the team name if things continue as they are.


Out of the four sides that make up the Lions, Scotland have by far the most players with most potential to step up in time for the tour of South Africa in 2021.

Forget the World Cup. That was an anomaly. Scotland were unlucky to lose against an Ireland side that had to rely on cheap shots to nullify one of their greatest ever players and Scotland’s preparations for the final group game against Japan were hampered by the weather and World Rugby’s administrators.

The games against Samoa and Russia showed an exciting future for Scotland and one Gatland will have to rely on to overcome the Springboks. Finn Russell is the best fly half available and with Grieg Laidlaw likely to take a step back there’s no doubt that it’ll be a straight shoot out between George Horne and Ali Price for the Lions 9 shirt.

In the forwards Jamie Richie, Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury are the only combination capable of countering the threat posed by the Boks and Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner will all be competing with each other for places in the Lions boiler room.

Elsewhere the likes of Mark Bennett, Darcy Graham, Blair Kinghorn, Stuart Hogg, Huw Jones and Rory Hutchinson will all be pushing for places any Lions starting XV and that’s before you even consider players like Kieran McDonald, Stafford McDowell and Jamie Dobie emerging in Glasgow and Edinburgh squads who have two years to prove themselves.

We haven’t even touched on the South African born players who are likely to Scotland Internationals come 2021. Oli Kebble, Jaco van der Walt and Duhan van der Merwe are all likely to be in contention and unlike the Bok rejects favoured by Ireland these were players competing to get into an ascendant South African side and will be more than capable of fronting up. They may even be able to offer an insight into the weaknesses of those they’ve played alongside.

These truths will be hard to swallow for those nations who’ve become used to making up large proportions of Lions squads but 2021 will be Scotland’s year and Warren Gatland knows it.

53 Responses

  1. Only winning a six nations would influence gatlands decisions re scottish lions players.

    It’s fine and well criticising other teams for choking, what did our players produce against a poor irish side in the first match?

    Fanciful article to say the least.

  2. I’m Scotland’s biggest fan and we have the potential of a great side but this is utter nonsense.

    A wind up? Gats will still pick a team full of Welsh and English ‘reliables’. How can you slate England’s World Cup performances then say it’s an anomaly when in a Scottish context?? Gats thinks we’re pish. Unfortunately he’s usually been right when playing us too.

  3. Slightly off topic, my favourite from the rugby news today was in the Times’ correspondents best memories of this RWC. Alex Lowe says it was seeing Stephen Jones try to eat a plastic banana for breakfast. I pray for video evidence . . . :)

    1. This certainly gives us a few chuckles, but the sad truth is there will likely, once gain, be next to no Scots in the Lions squad and a high probably of no Scot actually starting a test.

  4. hahahahahahahhaahahahahahahahhahhahahhahahahhahaahahahah
    wow….chokers didn’t make it out of their group…

    this is parody yeah? or wow there are really some in scotland who live in an alternate reality

  5. Is the mystery blogger Graham Love? Although is his trolling is much better than this.

    Not really sure of the point of the article – not especially funny or inventive – just invites more ridicule on our feeble efforts.

    1. Agreed. Obviously tongue in cheek so haha but just awful, please no more mystery pundit on the blog.

  6. The 6N will be telling. As biased as this article is ….the likelihood is there won’t be many Scottish players in the Lions squad…not a squad selected by Gatland. He doesn’t like players who play maverick style…he likes to know what he is getting from his selections.
    As tongue n cheek as this article is ….there is some obvious truths to it all too.
    None of the home nations were anywhere near as good as they thought they were….or the media made them out to be.
    In fact, I dont think the entire world cup was as good quality as the last one.
    Things im sure of…
    England won’t be the world dominating force they thought they could become and were…and now seem stuck with a coach, till 2021, who couldn’t get them across the line.

    Wales now have to redetermine a new identity with a new coach.

    Ditto Ireland…

    Scotland need to reset…both their coaching and squad. 6N needs to be used very wisely to build a team that performs to a higher level. Poor defensively and far too inconsistent to be a threat in any major competition.

    1. Let’s not forget – thanks to the Boks for saving us from decades of England crowing about their victory! We’d never have heard the end of it.

    2. Being stuck with a coach that couldn’t get them over the line but also a coach that took them from a team that couldn’t get out their group to making the final 4 years later. I think any Scotland fan would bite your hand off for that. If EJ continues them on the trajectory he has, they will unfortunately be unstoppable.

      Funny article but would be interesting to read a truthful version of the above from a mystery blogger who is on the inside.

      If the Lions were picked tomorrow I hate to say there would be 0 Scots picked with the exception of one or two consolation ones

      1. Bizarrely, Stuart Barnes has selected Rory Hutchison and Finn Russell in his Lions 23.

        I think that is unlikely to say the least. Think we’ll have two dirt trackers and that’s it, unless we actually back up our chat and win a 6N.

      2. Seriously? Hamish Watson is better than (the admittedly excellent) Underhill and Curry, and better than those pulling on Irish or Welsh jerseys at present. The final showed (again) how meek and bereft of ideas Farrell and Ford are behind a beaten pack; Russell is simply better than either of them. Horne and Graham are future stars, as is Ritchie. If Angry Jonny becomes Regular Jonny, then he’s definitely in any reasonable person’s squad. Owens, George et al. aren’t any better than Brown and McInally. Cummings, Ryan and Itjoe would be an amazingly athletic group of locks in a Lions 23. Bradbury and Fagerson are better than the dross being put out at 8 in Wales, although Ireland and England aren’t lacking in that department. Hoggy will regain his form and relegate the annoyingly good Williams to a bench spot or wing. If Huw Jones finds his 2017/18 form, he’s in the squad. We’re too down on our players. Look how much Wales have achieved with dross like Parkes and Moriarty, for example. For his many flaws, Gatland is a coach able to extract superb performances from his players. If he actually does his job this time, we should be well represented. Of course, in the real world, we’ll be stuck with wooden 10s like Farrell and Biggar, with AWJ or someone equally overrated as captain…

      3. Every four years Scottish fans convince themselves our players will be selected and every time these hopes are dashed. There is no way Gatland will choose six or more Scots from a team that has
        just limped through another six nations and been embarrassed at the World Cup. Unless we win big soon, we are getting token representation of Hoggy plus a friend. Our problem isn’t under rating our players it’s the opposite. Until they do something to earn a reputation they’ll be big fish in our little pond.

      4. Hutchinson never made the RWC squad . It is a bit naughty of Barnes over looking Townsend’s RWC outside centre choices of Taylor and Harris.

        I wonder how many of the team that faced Japan will be in the opening 6N side!

      5. Barnesy was a player with a heap of flair who could be erratic himself and was overlooked in favour of Rob Andrew.
        He likes those kind of players!

        Seriously, Russell on form is the best FH in the NH and Hutchinson has come on since his loan to Bedford. His defence used to be weak but he seems to have shored it up and he’s very young.
        I saw him score a try v. Saracens the other week where he went past about 4 players with no space to work in.
        Would be interesting to see him partner Jones or Bennett.
        Would it be unbalanced or just lethal?????

  7. This is Cammy’s alternate account.

    Or one of the Glasgow contributors because they cant name an up and coming Edinburgh player.

  8. Well done in your selection of a mystery pundit. Excellent article, just what the blog needs – challenging, imaginative, a bit tongue in cheek, and just enough credibility to generate lots of discussion. Much better reading than repetitive team lists. Who wants boring journalism?

  9. Well done mystery blogger for taking the trouble to write but this assessment will get pelters and is much too early.

    I do not think England did benefit from the one game rest , the All Blacks got the same rest. England beat the AB’s in a relentless performance , almost flawless, they cuffed a side we have never beaten.

    They suffered from a combination of overconfidence and general hang over which I believe was re-enforced by their obvious wilting in the 2nd half. I think we can say England are not a second half side.

    When it comes to the Lions the South African side was physical and a forward pack to match that is likely to be needed. I can not see any of our Front five being considered physical enough even in 2 years time even for the midweek side as was. As for the remainder some promising players but much too early to say, there is a lot of rugby to be played between now and then , no one stands out as test potential and we have a few who look capable of getting on tour but have yet to peak, such as Graham. I think on present form , no one has a ticket.

    Ali Price would need to really improve to challenge IMO, it is debatable who is our best SH but Price is stuck in the middle between a fast play maker and a tactical old head. Price is neither !

    1. It’s ironic that around the 2016 Calcutta Cup game Jones mocked us for not being a second-half team (‘they score all their points in the first half’), yet that’s what England have become.

    2. England had the benefit of not needing to up their game for a match against France , by far the toughest challenge in their group.
      France only lost to Wales through indiscipline.
      Englands best players were far more rested , mentally, than NZs going into that match.
      NZ had to immediately play to a high level from the 1st match against the eventual winners of the RWC.
      There is no comparison.
      England played to their max….NZ had an unusually poor day.

      As for Scotland…Ireland was just a joke performance. I dont know if we ever peaked…if we did …it was probably against Russia or the 2nd half V Japan…if that was our peak…we didn’t do it for long enough to threaten anyone. For all the prep we had …it was just a total fail.

      1. We need to have a look at ourselves. It was not glorious, we looked tired in the warm ups, tired against Ireland. Maybe we see too much of our players in Scotland with but I do not feel we saw anything we never already knew. The standout characters were the replacement backrows Richie and Bradbury, George Horne and Gordon Reid who was playing English Championship and now super six.None of these players (no offence,are lions ready) I did not see anything that raised my hopes. We lost to better sides on the day. Maybe we just need to set realistic targets and do the basics well for a wee while.

      2. I think we have some terrific players coming through…but my worry is we lack the confidence to let them play the minutes at test level ..make the mistakes they need to one day become great players.
        For all GTs acclaim at his rugby innovation….I find it hard to see where it is….he seems to select ‘old heads’ over young…unless his hand is forced via injury.
        Im not sold on playing up and coming players with ‘experience’ if that experience is simply mediocre and used to losing.
        Our problem in transition, is we don’t have great players for the up and coming to learn the right stuff from. We have an array of 30+ yr olds who have won the square root of zip at test level and are used to failure at that level. Im all for us rebuilding from scratch. I think its our best chance of breaking the cycle eventually. We really need a coach to take it by the scruff of the neck.

  10. With Gatland at the helm you just know the half backs and midfield will be:

    9. G Davies
    10. Farrell / Biggar
    12. Parkes / Farrell
    13. J Davies 2

    With Shane Williams on the wing

  11. Satire or Neil?

    I hear Rennie’s man management of Huw Jones and Alex Dunbar was to keep them fresh for this very Lions tour.

    1. Neil , but for no mention of young master Marfo

      But decent satire , and well played sir , whoever you may be

  12. I think Scotland should concentrate on getting a settled side for the 6 nations and playing to it’s strengths. There is probably one or two lions in waiting but they will not look at their best when being battered week in week out and hindered with unfamiliar team mates.

  13. The press made a big thing about Eddie Jones future. Is that all talk ? If the England job came up I wonder who might jump in there ? A lot of change coming up !

    1. I can see someone like Jake White taking over as coach of England. Unlikely they will put inexperience in the hotseat….
      For all Jones self and media hype… he pretty much failed. He set himself up…continually blabbing about being ‘the best team in the world’..and his obsessive focus on usurping NZ in his quest. I wouldnt want him anywhere near the Scotland Job…I couldn’t bear the consistant torture of his media comments alone.
      There will be a lot of coaching changes over the next year Id think.

  14. I guess we’ll have 2 years of Lions talk and suggested squads so might as well get in there first with some over the top satire!! Personally, I can’t think of one nailed on Scottish Lion as this stage – the World Cup didn’t really enhance anyone’s reputation other than perhaps Ritchie but there’s loads of competition for back row. Gatland will be looking for that inner dog with aggression & mental fortitude; hard to justify anyone on those grounds after the Ireland no-show. A good 6N & some consistent decent performances might hopefully edge some players into contention over the next 2 years.

  15. If this article turned up in any kind of neutral forum it would make us even more of a laughing stock than we already are.
    Calling England “chokers” for losing a World Cup final and then chalking off us getting knocked out in the group stages as ” an anomaly” kind of devalues everything else you’ve said which is a shame because your general point that more Scottish players could make it into the Lions is a welcome one

  16. Good of you guys to give Rob Howley a job as mystery blogger, now that his coaching career is knackered. I am running down to Ladbrooks now to put money on the selections.

  17. To get more players into The Lions the team must constantly perform. Many factors affect this but have a think on this. Which 3 home nations have have Southen Hemisphere coaches? Where did they end up in The 6N? Which 3 home nations got into the RWC quarter finals?
    England crashed and burnt 4 years again with a home grown coach. They did something about it!! What will Scotland do? More to the point, what will all home nations do about it? Let’s see SH Nations chasing our coaches!! Enjoyed the tongue in cheek article!

  18. You mention those Saffers making the Lions but omit Schoeman who is easily the most likely of the Scots based ones to play those tests. Also Pyrgos is conspicuous by his absence – he’s looking really sharp again and didn’t put a foot wrong in the World Cup, can’t think of another scrum half who didn’t make a single mistake in the tournament.

    1. Pyrgos? You’re kidding right?
      It would have been a skill in itself to make mistakes in the short period he contributed….and he was back to default in Edinburgh’s recent loss. Taking half a century to release the ball. Nowhere near being 1st choice for Scotland, thankfully, let alone a Lions side. We have have far better SHs …Horne, Price, Dobie, Laidlaw are all better and so Lions? …that’s a fun one.

  19. As an aside from BBC Sport site ….. ‘Saracens appeal against 35-point deduction and £5.36m fine for breaching salary cap rules’. This is on hold pending appeal outcome

  20. Whether Saracens are forced to let players (or even staff) go now due to cap / financial constraints, or they go down at the end of the season, are there any players or coaches who would be ideal to cherry pick/target for Glasgow, Edinburgh and/or Scotland? Eg Alex Sanderson for Scotland defence coach, Will Skelton to Glasgow, even Mark McCall for Dave Rennie, Kelly Brown, or any academy player? Opportunity should be used, SRU should start circling.

    1. Will be interesting…Id imagine all the premiership clubs + International sides will be circling Saracens coaching staff and players.
      They’ll surely have to make some cuts somewhere.

    2. Don’t think there will be too many players up for grabs…all the English stars will stay in England and all the foreign ones like Williams, Skelton, Koch and Maitland will probably go to France as Scottish/Welsh/Irish/most other English teams won’t be able to support the outrageous salaries they were on at Sarries.

      There is a lot of talk about the points deduction and fine, but surely at this moment in time they are still breaching the rules until the bogus companies like “Faz Investments” are shut down?

  21. That was a hilarious article, thanks. My prediction, all joking aside, would be maybe 3 or 4 if we’re lucky – only Hogg, Russell, Watson and maybe Ritchie are good enough right now anyway.

    1. Gatland named Hogg as his Sottish rep and then immediately burst out laughing.
      I kind of agreed with him!

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