‘It’s stuff like that, in my mind, devalues the jersey.’
Former Scotland international Tim Visser has criticised Warren Gatland for overlooking Scottish players in his first two tours as the head coach of the British and Irish Lions.
The number of Scotland players selected by Gatland on the 2013 and 2017 tours paled in comparison to England, Ireland and Wales’ contingents, something which has been a bone of contention for Scottish players and supporters.
Visser, who was born and raised in the Netherlands, was speaking on Telf’s Rugby podcast and revealed his thoughts on missing out on Gatland’s squad in 2013.
Why the LIONS need more SCOTLAND players 🏴 🦁
— Telf’s Rugby (@RugbyTelf) April 19, 2021
Tim Visser accuses Warren Gatland of ‘devaluing’ Lions jersey.
“At that point, I had done literally everything I could have done. If at any point it was going to happen, it was going to be that year,” Visser said.
“I was in the [Pro12] Dream Team every year, I was top try scorer every year, I had just become Player of the Year voted by all the other players in the league.
“There’s literally not a more honourable accolade you can achieve, in my mind, and I was on fire for Scotland.”
Tim Visser: Being overlooked for Christian Wade hurt me
While the former Edinburgh winger acknowledged that there was plenty of competition for selection among wingers on that tour, Visser was exasperated by Gatland’s mid-tour call-ups.
Uncapped Wasps winger Christian Wade and 36-year-old former Wales winger Shane Williams were called up as injury cover during the tour to Australia ahead of Visser.
Visser admitted that he found those call-ups harder to stomach than missing out on selection for the original Lions squad.
“What did hurt me is that when we went to South Africa with Scotland instead, there were a couple of injuries and instead of flying me in, [Gatland] flew Christian Wade in,” Visser commented.
“Christian Wade got picked up in the first game he played by I think Folau, thrown to the side of the pitch as if he were a ragdoll and obviously never played again.
“That hurt. Having done everything I did and to not then call me up. He’s done that again, not [to me] personally.
“But if you look at the last Lions tour, they had a couple of injuries, they were obviously in New Zealand, and just for ease he had the Wales team, I think they were in Samoa, he called four players into that Lions tour who ended up playing a midweek match.
“Some of which we either had never heard of before or since never seen again. It’s stuff like that, in my mind, devalues the jersey.”
‘Gatland used to stand next to the pitch on his phone.’
The 33-year-old insinuated that Gatland never paid much attention to Scotland, even when he visited their training camps before picking his Lions squads.
“Scotland have always been underrepresented. And I think he probably looked at me and just saw my defensive weaknesses, and just said ‘right, I’m not taking him, it’s as easy as that,’ because it can’t have been anything [else],” Visser explained.
“With Scotland, he [Gatland] used to stand next to the pitch on his phone, and then have lunch with us then b****r off essentially.”