Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Legally Mandated Lions Chat

Warren Gatland - pic courtesy InPhoto/Lions Rugby

Nope, it’s not a very late April fool. Let’s talk Lions, if for no other reason than to keep specific commenters from posting Lions teams on unrelated posts.

And now, well, because we have to: it has been announced today that Gregor Townsend and Steve Tandy will join the (still to be confirmed) tour, as Warren Gatland’s Attack and Defence coaches respectively.

With Robin McBryde (Leinster, bur he’s Welsh) and Neil Jenkins (none more Welsh) rounding out the management group, there will be no Irish or English coaching representation in the touring party though of course, McBryde will be very familiar with a number of the Irish players.

Townsend will be the first Scottish coach on a tour since Ian McGeechan in 2009 and has also experienced a memorable series win in South Africa as a player in 1997.

Despite finishing fourth, that was a strong Six Nations tournament for Scotland and the away wins in Paris should go a long way to answering the question about Scottish mindsets in those situations. Certainly, the way the Scottish defence has turned around since RWC 2019 owes huge amount of credit both to Tandy (and Chris Harris, sorry troops), but also to Townsend who recognised there were issues there and at the set-piece and made moves to address them.

The selection debate will continue to rage (we picked our Lions XV on a recent podcast), but Hamish Watson definitely did enough to silence his doubters. Any talk of him being lightweight or not good enough needs to take off their blinkers and actually look at who the best performing 7s of the tournament were (hint: not Tom Curry, S Jones). And now with two coaches to fight his corner, there is a possibility (often discussed on the podcast) that Scotland finally has a voice in selection meetings (even if one of them speaks with a Welsh accent).

“One of the great challenges of a Lions Tour is to bring together players from four different countries, in a short space of time, and create an attacking threat that will cause the opposition problems. It’s something I am already looking forward to.”

Gregor Townsend

It does of course mean that already underrated Scottish efforts will be under the microscope – especially if our level of representation shoots up suddenly and the tour doesn’t go as well, but all we’ve asked for is a chance to show that our lads have some quality about them and this is now a good platform to showcase it.

And so what – if they pick their favourites and English rugby journalism throws their collective toys from the pram? Well, we know how that feels. They’re already describing it as the second choice coaching lineup.

Are we about to fall back in love with the Lions – or are we going to sneak off in the morning and block their number, never to call them back?

You may commence discussions below.

31 Responses

  1. I’m scratching my head as to how the lions will play. Not sure Toony will subscribe to Warrenball and anyway I’m not sure Warrenball is the best strategy against the current springboks line-up.

  2. Hearing its a 36 player squad. So here is mine.
    20 Forwards 16 Backs
    Tour Captain (Alun Wyn Jones) Vice-Captain (Stuart Hogg)

    3 Looseheads
    Wyn Jones – Rory Sutherland – Joe Marler

    3 Hookers
    Ken Owens – Luke Cowan Dickie – Jamie George

    3 Tightheads
    Tadhg Furlong – Kyle Sinkler – Zander Fagerson

    5 Locks
    Alun Wyn Jones – Maro Itoje (Utility) – Tadhg Beirne (Utility) – James Ryan – Jonny Gray

    6 Back Row
    Talupe Faletau – Peter O’Mahony – Tom Curry – Justin Tipuric – Hamish Watson – CJ Stander (If available, Doris if not)

    3 Scrum Half
    Rhys Webb – John Cooney – Ben Youngs

    2 Fly Half
    Dan Biggar – Finn Russell

    5 Centre
    Robbie Henshaw – Garry Ringrose – Jonathon Davies – George North (Utility) – Henry Slade (Utility)

    6 Back-Three
    Stuart Hogg – Anthony Watson – Liam Williams – Josh Adams – Keith Earls – Duhan Van Der Merwe

    1. I’ve said it recently and won’t say it again. Ritchie was one of the best 6s this 6N and is a mean 7 too.
      Can’t believe how often he is overlooked by online ‘selectors’ for this Lions tour and by pundits.

    2. Harris will go if Tandy is in charge of defence. Anyone thinking otherwise needs to watch the recent Squidge rugby video on Scotland vs France. Can’t disagree with much of what you have there though, would drop Earls for North and Harris in the centres.

      I do like those SHs though.

      1. I think you’re spot on and I think a Henshaw-Harris is about what you want for the Boks.

        I can see most of our XV being considered in conversations and hope we get Sutherland, Fagerson, Gray, Watson, Russell, Harris and Hogg in the squad.

        Any of our hookers, Ritchie, VDM and Maitland might also have a shot too, particularly one of the wingers.

  3. Farrell isn’t my pick but if squad size is limited, then I can see him going to offer cover at 10 & 12.
    And if North goes, do you need 6 for the back three?
    Interesting discussions to be had and hope Toonie and Tandy are prepared to shout hard for our guys worthy of a place.

  4. I see that PRL are up to their old tricks again. Refusing to release English based players for a Lions camp even if those players (including Saracens again) are not involved in the Premiership final. Whoever is in charge of PRL is making Dodson look like an angel from heaven.

    1. Yeah some of the English-based players could be tricky due to final commitments that clash with warmups/camps. It’s likely they’ll get some sort of solution for players no longer involved but he’s looking for release to camp ahead of that as well. You’d like to think Hogg, as someone who has toured before, could be allowed to join up later but with the need to get to know the ethos, as well as bubbling requirements which of course are now in play, it could be touch and go for the likes of Jonny Gray or other England players who might play in the Prem final. Their clubs won’t want to release them for anything more than ceremonial duties (photos, stash) in the build up to a final…

      1. PRL usually eventually agrees in return for a big wedge. It’s a shakedown.

        Gray, Harris, Maitland potentially impacted but on the other hand other players chances improved if English players squeezed out of contention.

  5. Here is my 36 man lions squad, but with a twist.
    Maximum 1 player per pro side.

    Allan Dell (London Irish)
    Wyn Jones (Scarlets)
    Joe Marler (Harlequins)

    James Malcolm (Seattle Seawolves)
    Richard Hibbard (Dragons)
    Jamie George (Saracens)

    Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors)
    Kyle Sinkler (Bristol)
    Tom O’toole (Ulster)

    George Kruis (Wild-Knights)
    Andy Cramond (Biarritz)
    Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys)
    Courtney Lawes (Northampton)
    Joe Launchbury (Wasps)

    Adam Ashe (LA Giltinis)
    Chris Robshaw (San Diego Legion)
    Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons)
    Tom Curry (Sale)
    Tadhg Beirne (Munster)
    Hamish Watson (Edinburgh)
    Josh Strauss (Oyonnax)

    Greig Laidlaw (Shining Arc)
    Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues)
    Ben Youngs (Leicester)

    Owen Williams (Red Hurricanes)
    Finn Russell (Racing)

    Alex Lozowski (Montpellier)
    Stuart Olding (Brive)
    Ollie Lawrence (Worcester)
    Bundi Aki (Connacht)
    Robbie Henshaw (Leinster)

    Alex Goode (Green Rockets)
    Rob Kearney (Western Force)
    Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester)
    Anthony Watson (Bath)
    Stuart Hogg (Exeter)

  6. My first thought was that this should be good for Scotland on many levels. Generally Scotland players improve by going on such tours and I also think Toonie and Tandy will benefit by coaching different players in a different setting.

    But I have to admit the last few days have made me less happy……

    There is a concerted campaign in the English media to paint Watson (in particular) as being under-powered and too small. Now we’ve got all this guff about him not being a line out jumper. This Curry versus Watson game is really yanking my chain. Curry is a great player, but during the 6N Watson was just better. It’s that simple. Stuff is being said about Hogg’s defence and kicking being suspect. I can only laugh at this utter STUFF. So I do worry at all of this briefing and stuff might stick.

    We should be seeing 8 players on tour at least. Watson, Hogg, Finn, Price, VDM, Harris, Gray, Zander. Redpath is my bolter. But Sutherland, Brown, Richie, Maitland also in with a good shout

  7. LH: Sutherland, Wyn Jones, C. Healy
    Hooker: Ken Owens, G.Turner, R, Kelleher
    TH: Furlong, Fagerson, Sinkler
    Lock: T Bernie, J Ryan, Hendersen, AWJ, Itoje
    Back Row: Ritchie, Faletau, Stander, H. Watson, Tipuric, J van der flier, S Underhill
    SH: Price, Murray, G.Davies
    FH: Russell, Biggar,
    C: Henshaw, Harris, Aki, Ringrose, Davies
    B3: Hogg, L.Williams, Adams, Earls, DVDM.

    *Hogg, Underhill, Faletau, Sinkler, Itoje

    Here is my 36 man lions squad limited by the new standard of only being able to pick 5 English based players.

  8. A Scotsman, an Irishman and a Welshman all walk into a pub……….
    No one catches Coronavirus and they all enjoy the first Lions test.

  9. If anyone fancies a laugh I suggest you look at Wales online’s predicted Lions starting line up. 40% of starters are Welsh with Hogg the only Scot and he’s lucky to be starting at FB ahead of Liam Williams apparently and needs to impress between now and the tests to keep his spot. Don’t worry though – there’s a place for Liam Williams on the wing even though other specialist wingers were superior to him in the 6N. My personal favourite was the reluctant selection of Curry at 7 and that it was a toss up between him and Tipuric! Got to love some good old fashioned Welsh bias.

  10. 36-player squad:

    HOOKERS: Ken Owens, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jamie George
    PROPS: Wyn Jones, Tadhg Furlong, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Cian Healy, Zander Fagerson
    LOCKS: Jonny Gray, Iain Henderson, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones
    FLANKERS: Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Tom Curry, Justin Tipuric, Josh Navidi
    NO.8s: Taulupe Faletau, CJ Stander

    SCRUM-HALVES: Tomos Williams, Ali Price, Conor Murray
    FLY-HALVES: Dan Biggar, Finn Russell, Jonny Sexton
    CENTRES: Robbie Henshaw, Chris Harris, Jonathan Davies, George North
    BACK THREE: Stuart Hogg, Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Josh Adams, Duhan van der Merwe, Louis Rees-Zammit

    Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Jamie Ritchie, Gareth Davies and Owen Farrell all close.

  11. My Team based on a few things.

    Recent form (Six Nations onwards)
    Away form (in the Six nations)

    Wyn Jones – Cian Healy – Oli Kebble (Sutherland Appears injured)
    Ken Owens – George Turner – Luke Cowan Dickie
    Tadhg Furlong – Zander Fagerson – Tom Francis
    Jonny Gray – Alun Wyn Jones – James Ryan – Ian Henderson – Tadhg Beirne
    Jamie Ritchie – Hamish Watson – Justin Tipuric – Toby Faletau – Josh Van Der Flier – CJ Stander
    Connor Murray – Gareth Davies – Ali Price
    Jonny Sexton – Dan Biggar – Finn Russell
    Robbie Henshaw – Chris Harris – Jonathan Davies – George North – Sam Johnson
    Stuart Hogg – Duhan Van Der Merwe – Louis Rees-Zammit – Keith Earls – Liam Williams

    1. So you have based it on
      1. Recent Form
      2. Away Form
      3. Not play for England.

      Admittedly England came a lowly 5th in the 6N, but if you think the English contingent is going to be just one (LCD) you are going to be severely disappointed.
      Itoje and Curry will both definitely go and at least three from Sinckler, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Underhill, Youngs, Farrell, Slade and Antony Watson.
      In fact I’d put a bet on there being more English than Scots in the squad. I don’t think it’s right but if I’m going to support the Lions I don’t want to be disappointed by the lack of Scots. So I’m tempering my expectations and will be pleased if there are five Scots, and over-the moon if more go.

      1. It is definitely much more likely than not that Scotland will have fewer Lions tourists than England, but not impossible for Scottish representation to edge ahead.

        I’d guess Itoje, Curry, Sinkler, Farrell, Watson are all basically nailed on to tour. George is one of those players who will probably go as he has credit in the bank and not many outstanding hookers pressing their case. LCD too has a good shout.

        Beyond that there are probably a bunch of English players ‘in the conversation’ whose form may not be in their favour but have toured before or have lots of accolades. Some of these will be 50/50, some a bit more, some less depending on alternatives.

        Scotland will probably do well to get 6 in tour – Hogg, Russell, Watson, Sutherland (if fit), DVDM, Z Fagerson, Price look the most likely but not all of those will make it. There’s a few more with some chance but probably less than evens – Ritchie, Harris, Maitland, Gray, Turner, Brown.

        So for Scotland to get more than England we need to get almost all the 50/50 decisions in our favour and maybe a long shot or two, and for England to lose out on almost all the marginal decisions.

        It could happen, England are going to get squeezed by small squad, Scotland increasing numbers and Irish and Welsh representation being much healthier than predicted after the RWC. But still, not probably. Maybe worth a bet.

  12. Hopefully with Toonie and Tandy coaching we can expect a decent Scottish contingent, you would think that they would have told Gatland to ram it if there was going to be no Scottish players. Although he won’t have picked his final team he will have had a pretty good idea for a while. He’s been making encouraging noises about England players failing to deliver and not earning their places too… Does anyone know if Sir Dr James Robson is on the medical team?

    1. I think more encouraging is that Gatland has said Scottish representation will be higher and clearly recognised Scotland’s improvements. Suggests to me that a more than 2/3 players were in that list of certainties that all selectors already agreed on before horse trading begins.

  13. I’m still interested to see how the fly half conundrum will be solved. With a smaller squad of 36 I can’t see how there will be room for Sexton, Farrell, Russell and Biggar. Farrell will be nailed on as a 10/12 (due to reputation/past form credit) but I would doubt that the other three will all go especially if squad size is only 36. Who will lose out? I’d like to think that Toonie and Tandy will back Finn’s inclusion and Gatland clearly rates Biggar and so I would be amazed if he were left out. Does that mean Sexton loses out because there is nobody to push his case (apart from McBryde) and because he is an injury risk? Or will be all be shocked and disappointed with Finn being left out. That might give Toonie a problem when he returns to the Scotland duties.

    1. The only way I can see Finn getting into the squad is if Gatland takes Farrell as one of his four centres (or doesn’t pick him at all – unlikely).
      Both Biggar and Sexton have credit in the bank and – to be fair – had pretty good six nations. Barring injury they are both nailed on to tour.
      Finn might make the tour if Gatland can be persuaded that we won’t win the series just by defence – we need someone who can unlock theirs.

    1. Feel for George North. Was a definite to tour and possible test 13. Two from Ringrose, Harris, Slade.
      Ringrose only just back from another injury and Slade part of a dysfunctional England attach, Chris Harris is now frontrunner. That should silence some of the critics on here. Or maybe not haha.
      Don’t know why the media are saying Launchbury is out of Lions contention. He wasn’t really in it after missing the whole of the 6N with a stress fracture. Hew would have been a surprise inclusion ahead of AWJ, Itoje, Henderson, Ryan, Beirne, Gray or even Beard, Lawes or Cummings.

      1. Yeah sad news. He seems like a good bloke as well as being a nailed on tourist. We could now be looking at a midfield of Henshaw and Harris which is pretty beastly on paper.

      2. Thought Ringrose was quite disappointing in 6N and had a few defensive lapses. Henry slide is highly rated by English fans but I don’t see the big fuss.

        I think Farrell, Henshaw, Davies, Harris could go as four centres. I’d pick Farrell and Henshaw and have Finn starting at 10.

        Seen a few posts citing Redpath as a bolter. Highly doubtful but there is a lack of stand out 12s so you never know.

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