'My girlfriend was looking at me like what the f***? I felt exactly the same': How one of the Lions' biggest surprise picks reacted to tour selection
Warren Gatland’s decision to include Scotland midfielder Chris Harris in his 37-strong Lions squad to tour South Africa has been one of the most hotly debated selections in the wake of last Thursday’s announcement. On one side of the debate is a cohort who view Gatland’s preference for the 30-year-old as well deserved as the 28-cap midfielder has been in the form of his life since becoming a must-pick for his country, Harris appearing in all 14 matches since the World Cup and starting on eleven occasions.
However, on the other side of the argument is a posse who feel Harris is fortunate to be chosen to tour South Africa, his credentials being helped by the presence of Gregor Townsend, his Scotland boss, being one of Gatland’s assistant coaches.
Whatever the truth of that argument, the fact is Harris was one of four midfield pick to make the cut, joining Bundee Aki, Elliot Daly and Robbie Henshaw in a squad where the names of the likes of Manu Tuilagi, Garry Ringrose and Jonathan Davies – to name but three – didn’t feature.
Harris was with his Gloucester teammates watching the announcement unfold on live TV and having tried to shut his possible selection out of his mind in the weeks before, he thought his chances were over when he heard the names of Aki and Daly announced in a selection that was read out in alphabetical order.
Appearing on The Rugby Pod with Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton, Harris explained his feelings surrounding his Lions squad selection, from getting a ‘Save the Date’ message in April to what it has been like for him the days following his pick by Gatland.
'His running lines have improved a lot but also he has got more confidence in taking on the opposition with the ball in hand.'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 14, 2021
“I had the email to say, ‘oh you’re in contention’,” he told The Pod. “There is a load of stuff going on in the media about Chris Harris Lions this, Lions that and I just sort of went, I’ll ignore it because I didn’t want to think about it and then I got that email which was about two weeks before the announcement and I was like, ‘s***, there is a chance’.
“But even still, I didn’t want to think that it was going to happen because if it didn’t I’d fall off a cliff. I tried to bat it off. Even boys nudging me did you get the email, I was no, no, no because I didn’t want any of that.
“So in terms of being in the squad I’d no idea and as the names were coming up it went Bundee Aki and when it got to Daly I was alright, that is two centre options, I was like well maybe not. And then it said Chris Harris, honestly I was in shock, absolute shock. That was my initial feeling.
“My phone was blowing up. I called my girlfriend straight up and she was looking at me like what the f***? I felt exactly the same. I was in utter shock and it probably took a couple of days to just sink in – and it’s such an amazing feeling. The best day of my life was probably a couple of days after when I allowed it to sink in and reflect on it because at the time I was just mind-blown. Once it sunk in I was wow-wee, this is properly special. I didn’t even imagine it.
“During the Six Nations, I wasn’t even thinking about that. It is a cliche but I never think more than a week or two ahead. I just keep focused in that way and that is how I get the best out of myself. That is why I am so mind-blown, I wasn’t expecting it at all.
“Now, seeing boys like Kyle Sinckler’s reaction, how much it means to them, how devastated they are (at non-selection), it just makes you think even harder. You look at the boys who haven’t been selected and you’re wow, what an absolute honour.”
Asked if he managed to go training with Gloucester last Thursday afternoon following his Lions selection, Harris added: “It was such a weird one. I was out for a week with my shoulders anyway so I didn’t actually have to do the training, I just had a running session, a bit of fitness.
“After it was announced I was on the phone to a couple of people and then Skivs [George Skivington] came running out and was, oh mate congratulations. He was mate enjoy it, take your time, don’t rush to get to training, we’ll see you when you get there.
“I pottered about for a bit and just got that shock out of the way, went down and all the boys just congratulated me. It was bizarre, man. I got on with the running, did the running and when I got home, went out for a meal with the missus and had a couple of drinks, but I’m still in shock now to be honest.”
You can't not be happy for @charris_13 after listening to him on this week's Pod.
He'll be a quality addition to the @lionsofficial ?
— The Rugby Pod (@TheRugbyPod) May 11, 2021
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