Warren Gatland has offered Scotland players every incentive to challenge for 2021 Lions tour selection, the coach insisting that he is conscious of how the celebrated rugby tourists must have a fair representation from all four of the home unions.
The New Zealander has been heavily criticised for how few Scots he has chosen when previously in charge of the Lions. RugbyPass last year posed the question of whether there was an anti-Scottish agenda festering among Lions hierarchy or was Gatland within his rights to ignore them, a debate that sparked a huge viral response.
Gatland picked just three Scotsmen for the 2013 journey to Australia and just three again for the 2017 tour of his native New Zealand four years later, a low selection that left him open to accusations of bias given he coached Wales between 2008 and 2019 and was previously coach of Ireland.
Already installed as Lions boss for a third successive tour, his fourth in all having worked as an assistant on the 2009 trip to South Africa, Gatland has admitted he would like a better selection balance across all four nations.
Speaking on The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series, Gatland suggested that impressive away performances by Scotland players in the lead-up to next year tour will definitely catch his eye. “I’m really, really conscious and I understand it’s important that we have a representation of the four home nations. That is really, really important for me,” he said.
“I’m not sitting here and thinking about what do I have to do over the next few years to be the All Black coach. Definitely not”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 17, 2020
“I know every nation is so parochial and it’s understandable there is disappointment and disagreement about selection – and I want to have a good representation of Scottish players. I desperately want that to happen and I hope it does happen.
“It is important that we do select players from every nation. The last thing you want to do is go on a Lions tour that has one or two nations, or no players from Scotland. Look, I know last time it created a certain amount of controversy and I have learnt a lot in the tours that I have been on – you reflect back and think what things you would do differently.
“Look, I’m conscious and, as I said, I desperately want them to do well. When I look back at 2017 probably the hardest thing is when you are playing away from home you want players to be able to front up and win away from home.
“It becomes important, particularly on the Lions. You are playing against a southern hemisphere team away from home and probably the big game, I didn’t expect them [Scotland] to win but I wished they hadn’t shipped 50 points against England at Twickenham (in that year’s Six Nations). That was not a great performance for a number of individuals
“It’s great to see they started the (2020) Six Nations so well. I thought they played well the first few games and had a really important win against France. They would have gone to Cardiff with a lot of confidence.
“To win away from home and win in Cardiff, that would have been a significant result. The next twelve months as we get close to the Lions, I want all those teams to be able to perform well and make the selection for us difficult.
“I’m really conscious about that and we need to make sure that we have a balance from the four home nations. That is important.”
"On balance, the two best Lions-eligible flyhalves in this year’s Six Nations were George Ford and Adam Hastings."
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 14, 2020
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