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Lack of influence cost Scotland players in Lions selection – Gordon Bulloch

Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour are the only Scottish players to have made the British and Irish Lions’ summer tour of New Zealand.

RUGBY UNION 19/04/17 22:36
Lack of influence cost Scotland players in Lions selection – Gordon Bulloch

Former Scotland and Lions hooker Gordon Bulloch felt his countrymen’s sparse representation in Warren Gatland’s squad was somewhat predictable given the lack of influence among selectors.

Only Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour have made the British and Irish Lions’ summer tour of New Zealand while 23 players in total from Ireland and Wales – who both lost to Scotland in the RBS 6 Nations – join 16 England players.

Both Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend and Scotland assistant coach Jason O’Halloran turned down the chance to join Gatland’s backroom team to focus on their new roles, when they will swap teams in the summer.

And Bulloch feels that contributed to several Scotland players just missing out.

“I’m tremendously disappointed from a Scotland point of view,” said Bulloch, who went on Lions tours in 2001 and 2005. “But again you look at it and say there’s been no travesties in selection.

“There are several players who I think would have been a toss of the coin. Jonny Gray had a great chance, Hamish Watson had a good chance, Finn Russell had a great chance. But unfortunately that’s the way Lions selections go.”

Gordon Bulloch, centre, played for the Lions in 2005 (David Davies/PA)
Gordon Bulloch, centre, played for the Lions in 2005 (David Davies/PA)

Gatland felt Scotland’s 61-21 defeat in England and Glasgow’s 38-13 European defeat by Saracens were evidence that it would be risky to take more Scotland players to face the All Blacks.

He added: “We just felt we’d looked at the footage, we’d done our due diligence, looked at the game in Twickenham.

“There’s no doubt that Scotland have done very well. They will be aggrieved and disappointed about that. They performed exceptionally well at home. And probably the greatest strength that Scotland have had is probably their collective performance. They’ve been well coached by Vern (Cotter) who’s done an exceptional job.

“When I looked at it, and I looked pretty closely at the Glasgow-Saracens game, there were some pretty strong performances there by the Sarries. They could have been well up a bit earlier.

“And we are not playing at home. We are playing away from home. Scotland haven’t been to New Zealand since 2000. And we are playing the best team, back-to-back world champions in their own backyard. We have to perform away from home, that’s going to be paramount.”

Warren Gatland during the squad announcement
Warren Gatland during the squad announcement (Adam Davy/PA)

Former Wales head coach Gatland is joined by England’s Steve Borthwick and Graham Rowntree, Ireland’s former England international Andy Farrell and Wales coaches Rob Howley and Neil Jenkins in his coaching team.

Bulloch said: “You think there’s been a lot of close calls, and you have an Welsh/English-dominated selection panel, so you are going to pick guys who have shown over the last few years the form that has taken them to championship games in Europe or the Premiership.

“And the Irish have shown for a number of years that they have gone deep into Europe and won European cups, so they have the pedigree that way.

“So you look at Scottish teams over the last few years, Glasgow won (the Guinness PRO12) a few years back now but every clutch game we have played, we have maybe not shown what we can do.”

The key games included Scotland’s trip to Twickenham this year, when the Scots’ expectations were shattered by a crushing 61-21 defeat, while Glasgow also suffered a heavy loss in their European Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens, although they had twice thrashed Leicester to get there.

When asked whether the selection panel should have looked beyond their own allegiances, the 75-times capped Scot said: “Yes, you could say that but at the end of the day it’s their reputation. They are responsible for going out there and getting wins, so therefore they are going to pick guys they know.

“If we maybe had a bit more influence we could have had four or five players.”

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