Scotland’s Lions Participation On The Up After Years Of Neglect

Scotland’s Lions Participation On The Up After Years Of Neglect
© PA

For the first time in a quarter of a century, this summer's British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa will have a balanced squad.

All four nations have at least eight players making the initial squad announcement made by head coach Warren Gatland for this summer's tour.

Recent squads have been heavily influenced by rugby players from England, Wales and Ireland with Scotland vastly outnumbered.

Gatland's 37-man squad is made up of 11 English players, 10 from Wales and eight each from Ireland and Scotland.

2021 Lions Squad Representation (Backs/Forwards):

  • 11 - England (3/8)
  • 10 - Wales (5/5)
  • 8 - Ireland (3/5)
  • 8 - Scotland (5/3)
  • Total of 37 players

The five backs and three forwards are the most Scotland players to make the initial squad since nine were named to tour Australia in 1989 when Scotsman Finlay Calder captained the squad.

Scotland's revival under Gregor Townsend in the last two seasons has seen them win the same number of Six Nations games as England and Ireland and one more than Wales. That achievement has been recognised by Gatland.

Townsend is one of Gatland's back-room staff which does not include any coaches from England's camp.

The squad is smaller than the one that toured New Zealand four years ago with 16 backs and 21 forwards named this time around.

There is no place in the squad for Ireland's fly-half Johnny Sexton with Scotland's versatile Finn Russell selected alongside Wales' Dan Biggar and Owen Farrell of England.

Having eight players on tour and two coaches means Scotland will have a greater influence on this tour than on recent tours.

In the last five Lions trips, Scots have been heavily outnumbered.

Scottish Lions Named in Initial Squads:

  • 2 - 2017
  • 3 - 2013
  • 2 - 2009
  • 3 - 2005
  • 3 - 2001
  • 5 - 1997
  • 7 - 1993
  • 9 - 1989

For the five tours played between and including 2001 and 2017, a total of 197 players were named in the initial squads, but only 13 spots were handed to players who had worn the blue shirt of Scotland.

English players have led the way with 73 selected, followed by 60 Welsh players and 51 from Ireland.

The Scottish accent will be more prominent this summer than on those tours.

Squad Representation 2001-2017


Lock Richie Gray was the only Scottish forward to make the initial squad announcement for the last two tours while Sean Maitland, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg (twice) are the backs to have joined Gray.

In the three squad announcements before that, Chris Cusiter was the only back to be named while the forwards were represented by six of his international team-mates including back rower Simon Taylor, who was named for both the 2001 and 2005 tours to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Scots Named in Initial Squads (2001 to 2017)


  • Chris Cusiter (2001)
  • Stuart Hogg (2013, 2017)
  • Sean Maitland (2013)
  • Tommy Seymour (2017)


  • Tom Smith (2001)
  • Scott Murray (2001)
  • Simon Taylor (2001, 2005)
  • Gordon Bulloch (2005)
  • Euan Murray (2009)
  • Nathan Hines (2009)
  • Richie Gray (2013)

A further nine Scots have joined Lions tours as cover for injured players on those tours and that includes Gordon Bulloch in 2001 who made the initial squad announcement for the tour to New Zealand four years later.

In total, 19 Scottish rugby internationals have been on the last five Lions tours. To put that into context, England had 19 players initially named for the 2001 tour and 20 for the following tour in 2005.

Lions Squad Representation Since WW2

NationRepresentatives (Out of 511)Percentage

While there is a greater Scottish presence in this year's squad, the nation's wait for a Lions captain continues.

Gavin Hastings remains the last Scot to lead a Lions squad into battle when doing so during the 1993 tour to New Zealand.

Wales' Alun Wyn Jones, who captained Wales to this year's Six Nations title, will be the oldest player to skipper the Lions at the age of 35.

Jones will lead his players out during this summer's tour that includes five warm-up games in the Rainbow Nation before the tour culminates in three Test matches against the Rugby World Cup holders in Johannesburg (first and third) and Cape Town (second).

The motto for every Lions tour has been 'The Power Of Four' which urges all players from the four nations to come together and play as one.

When called upon on recent tours, the few Scottish players have played their part. But this summer they will be expected to emerge from the supporting cast to play starring roles to beat the Springboks on their own soil.