Lions: Which Scotland Players could make the squad?

Lions: Which Scotland Players could make the squad?

Scotland fans have been hotly debating which players deserve to be on the plane for the 2021 Lions tour, with just one month to go before Warren Gatland announces his 36-man squad.

In total, there have been 835 individuals capped for the Lions since the first tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1888 and just 127 of them have been Scottish.

Recently, however, Scotland have been playing well, finishing fourth in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, after beating both England and France and developing a wide range of players in their squad.

This year, more so than previous tours, we may see a substantial increase of Scottish players in that famous red jersey. Although multiple other Scots have been playing well and will have impressed Gatland, here are seven we believe may be in with a shout.

1) Hamish Watson

The first Scot to win Six Nations player of the tournament since Stuart Hogg in 2017, Hamish Watson has been the name on everyone’s lips of late. No matter who you support, Watson’s form over the past few years has made him near impossible to criticise.

He played almost every single minute of the 2021 Six Nations Championship, making 67 carries, 321 meters, 55 tackles and four turnovers. Most impressively of all, he has not missed a tackle since playing England in 2019.

Both in offence and defence, Watson is ruthless and will always put his body on the line for his team. If he can maintain his form between now and June, many believe he has the ability to be a test starter in South Africa this summer.
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2) Stuart Hogg

Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg has been exceptional for both club and country in recent years and continues to grow as both a player and a leader. The Exeter Chiefs fullback is just one of two people to have won the Six Nations player of the tournament more than once, winning the trophy back-to-back in 2016 and 2017.

This time around, he scored two tries, made the third most meters with 440 and made the second most offloads with seven. Hogg’s agility and pace make him one of the most dangerous attackers in world rugby and would make an excellent asset to the Lions backline. Additionally, his skill with the boot is also a huge part of his game, kicking an impressive 904 meters in the Six Nations.

Hogg has been a part of two Lions Tours so far already (2013 & 2017) and is another one of the Scotland players in contention to make the starting team this year.
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3) Finn Russell

Next on the list is mercurial fly-half Finn Russell. Based on form, many would argue that he is currently the best 10 in the world and could be a key weapon in attack against the Springboks.

Russell burst onto the scene at Glasgow Warriors before securing a move to French giants Racing 92 in 2018. At Racing, he has been given free-roam to express himself with flair and has developed into a real threat on the ball.

Russell is one that will never shy away from trying something out of the ordinary and therefore is one that can single-handedly win the game for his team, whether that be with a risky pass or an audacious kick. Russell may not be your traditional 10 but that might just be what the Lions need to gain an edge over South Africa.
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4) Duhan Van Der Merwe

Despite only making his debut in October 2020, Van Der Merwe has lit up the international stage in style. With eight tries in just his first 10 games, the 25-year-old has been unstoppable in a Scotland shirt.

Although born in the Western Cape of South Africa and featuring for the Springbok U20 side, Van Der Merwe became eligible for Scotland in 2020 having spent four years in the country with Edinburgh. He has made 64 appearances in the capital, scoring 155 points.

At 6ft 4in and 106kg, the powerhouse winger has pace to burn and the footwork to get himself into space. Returning home with the Lions to face his native country could be what raises his career to the next level.
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5) Jonny Gray

The second Exeter Chief on the list is lock-forward Jonny Gray. He may have only played three of the five games in the Six Nations this year but the performances he puts in every time he does plays are of the highest standard.

When looking at the four nations that make up the Lions squad, second-row is one of the most fiercely competed positions. Gray, however, has been one of the most consistent players in the world for both club and country.

Defensively, there are very few better than Gray in the tackle. In 2019, he missed just 13 tackles in an amazing 1006 attempts. Furthermore, standing at 6ft 6in, he is a useful weapon to have at both scrum time and in the lineout, and often pitches in with his fair share of tries, having scored three in 13 for the Chiefs and four in 61 for Scotland.

 

6) Dave Cherry

The somewhat unexpected curveball on the list in Scotland hooker Dave Cherry. Cherry made his debut for the boys in blue in the Calcutta Cup win over England just this year. He featured in all five games of the Six Nations, playing 112 minutes in total, and scored three tries – making him the first hooker in Six Nations history to score three tries in one tournament.

It can be argued that having only played five times for his country, Cherry is not yet experienced enough to feature for the Lions but it must be said that his stats would suggest otherwise. In his five games, he has three tries, 21 carries, 115 meters made and 18 tackles.

He may be ways off making a test appearance for the Lions but if Cherry continues with this great form he could easily make the bench or potentially start one of the local team games.

7) Huw Jones

Seventh on the list is another that might come as a surprise to some and may spark debate among Lions fans. Glasgow Warriors centre Huw Jones started his international career with Scotland and their players in fine form ahead of the Lions before unfortunately falling off the radar in more recent times.

This year, however, Jones made a stunning impact on Scotland’s Six Nations campaign with very little playing time. He featured for just 138 minutes in total but managed two tries, one assist, 25 carries and broke 10 tackles.

Centre is another position that contains a lot of world-class talent, with the likes of Henry Slade, Jonathan Davies and Robbie Henshaw, but Jones could be an outside shout for getting a seat on the plane to SA.

He can play both inside and outside centre, is one of the fastest players at Gatland’s disposal and can make a real impact off the bench as a kind of super-sub when needed. Jones may not have seen much game time for his country of late but could get his career on the world rugby stage back on track with a Lions trip to South Africa as one of a few Scotland Players.
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