SCRUM Web Editor Gary Heatly hears Gordon Bulloch’s thoughts on the Lions selection:
Former British & Irish Lions hooker Gordon Bulloch believes Warren Gatland’s squad need to prepare themselves for “the biggest challenge in rugby” in New Zealand.
Having been a Lion twice in 2001 and 2005 Scot Bulloch, now 42, knows just what a test it will be for the Lions to emerge victorious overall this summer.
He said: “It’s the biggest challenge in rugby.
“It’s going to be very, very difficult. The actual schedule they have got is almost suicidal.
“In 2005 we played the provinces, we didn’t play the franchises, and even at that we picked up a lot of injuries and it was difficult to get through.
“If they make it to the first Test without any serious injuries, they will be lucky – and then you have got to nick two [Test] wins. So, it’s going to be a tough, tough tour.
“In New Zealand you are playing against the whole country, you are not just playing against 15 guys who take to the field during that first Test.”
Meanwhile, he feels the lack of Scottish representation in this year’s coaching team “definitely had a bearing” on the poor return of Scots in the squad.
On Wednesday, Head Coach Gatland named his 41-man travelling party.
And there was uproar north of the border when Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour were the only Scotland players named.
Many feel the lack of names such as Fraser Brown, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, John Barclay, Finn Russell and others on the list came because none of Gatland’s coaching team work with Scotland or have coached here.
As has been widely documented, incoming Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend and current Attack Coach Jason O’Halloran both declined invites from Gatland to be part of the team.
And Bulloch, who earned 75 Scotland caps, said: “The coaches are responsible for going out there and getting wins, so therefore they are going to pick guys they know – and there were a lot of close calls.
“The lack of a Scottish voice definitely had a bearing on selection. If you’ve got someone there and it’s a 50-50 call, you go for the guy you know.
“It’s very difficult to say that we should have done something about that. We had opportunities with Gregor being invited, but that’s a difficult call because he’s obviously going on his first Scotland tour as head coach.
“But you could easily argue the point that, if we had someone on the coaching panel, they could have set a generation in motion – five or six Scottish Lions could then have inspired the next lot [of talented players] coming through.
“I think that a decision should have been made higher up the tree [within the SRU to get a Scottish coach with the Lions]. If you think about it, getting a big showing with the Lions can do a lot for rugby – not just this summer but for the next five or six years leading on.
“With Ireland, when Brian O’Driscoll was coming through, he inspired a generation and they’re coming through now.
“So we maybe could have said ‘let’s push to get some guys on that coaching team’ because we maybe would have been sitting here with five or six Lions now – and that could have taken the Scotland squad forward over the next few years.
“I’m tremendously disappointed from a Scotland point of view.”
Bulloch did admit though that he feels there has been “no travesties in selection”.
“It’s disappointing, but you look at it and say there’s been no travesties,” he stated.
“You think there’s been a lot of close calls and you have a 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 Aviva Premiership while the Irish have shown for a number of years that they can go deep into Europe and win cups, so they have the pedigree that way.
“If 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.”
Gordon Bulloch is pictured on the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour by David Gibson/FOTOSPORT
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