Two-time British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has admitted what many have long felt, that his squad selection for the summer tour of New Zealand was harsh on Scotland.
The 41-man panel featured only two Scots, Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour, and neither featured in any of the three Test matches with the All Blacks.
The drawn series gave fans many a memorable moment and looking back, it can be said with confidence that the Lions gave a solid account of themselves.
Now, in his new book “In the Line of Fire”, serialised by Sportsmail, Gatland has admitted following the finalisation of the squad ahead of the tour that he and his selectors knew that the lack of Scots ‘would cause a stir”.
Having enjoyed a strong Six Nations campaign, which featured an opening round defeat of Ireland, expectation was that Scotland would contribute a handful of players to the travelling squad.
When the names were announced, only Hogg and Seymour were included. While Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell and John Barclay did join the squad as a result of withdrawals and injuries.
Gatland conceded that despite picking players on merit, the lack of Scots in the final squad was not lost on he or his coaching team.
“Even though we’d consciously tried to pick the best 41 players regardless of nationality, we were still acutely aware that one of the four nations was not particularly well represented.”
With Hogg receiving a tour ending injury following a collision with teammate Conor Murray’s elbow in the Lions’ clash with the Crusaders, Scotland lost their only genuine hope of a Lions starter.
This was also a fact that Gatland conceded to the Scotland full-back when it became clear that the facial fracture Hogg suffered meant he would not be available for the Test series with the All Blacks.
“I went up to Hoggy and said: “Look mate, I know it’s no consolation at the moment, but our thoughts at the start of the tour were that we were probably looking to start you in the first Test at 15”.
Had the Lions been annihilated by the All Blacks, as they had been when they last toured New Zealand back in 2005, perhaps more might have been made of the selection Gatland and co. came up with.
Their one victory, one loss and one draw, however, was enough to ensure that the latest installment of the storied series was by no means a failure, thus largely vindicating the management team and their squad selection.
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