FORMER Scottish Rugby Union president Ian McLauchlan has launched a stinging attack on British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland after just two Scots were named in the squad to tour New Zealand. Glasgow Warriors full-back Stuart Hogg and winger Tommy Seymour are the sole Scottish players in a 41-man group, leading McLauchlan to suggest that Gatland did not know enough about other members of a squad that won all three of their home games in the Six Nations Championship.
“Gatland doesn’t exactly have a good track record in liking people from Scotland,” said McLauchlan, who played in eight Tests for the Lions and is still an SRU director. “He doesn’t come here, does he?
“And he doesn’t know the names of Scottish players: when he was asked on television whether there were any Scots in the running, he said there’s Hogg and the new boy at centre, and one of the wingers looked quite good. He couldn’t name them. He only knows Stuart Hogg.”
McLauchlan said he understood why a coaching group with no Scottish representative should have made the choices they did, but insisted that both Glasgow Warriors coach Gregor Townsend and Scotland assistant Jason O’Halloran who were right to turn offers to be part of Gatland’s coaching team. “The difficulty with Scotland is that when [outgoing head coach] Vern Cotter came he had an interim coach in Scott Johnson, and everybody went mad about that. And now you’ve got ‘We should have let Gregor go’, but Gregor” – who takes over from Cotter as Scotland coach in June – “is just starting a new job as well.
“So you’ve got a choice: is it more important that Gregor coaches the Lions or Scotland? In my opinion there’s only one horse in that race and that’s Scotland.
“As for Jason O’Halloran, he’s got another job [with the Warriors], where they’re all shifting around. I think he was probably right to turn it down, because he was an afterthought by Gatland, and as a Kiwi, the same as Gatland, he probably knew exactly how much input he’d have, which would be nil.
“He’d just be along there for the ride, so he decided no. It wasn’t the SRU that decided, it was O’Halloran. He said no. Vern Cotter offered his services and he was told he wasn’t wanted.”
Having made those criticisms, McLauchlan also accepted that before this year, Scotland’s form had been unimpressive, and in that respect there could be little complaint about the low representation. “Until recently we haven’t actually cut the mustard nationally, so we don’t have too much of a gripe in that respect.
“Then there’s the element of trust. The other national coaches know the players they’ve worked with, whereas they don’t actually know what they’ll get from the Scots boys.
“I think the time will come, possibly even as early as the next Lions tour – if there is one – that we’ll have a better representation, but that’ll come. We started from a very, very low base a few years ago and we haven’t won too many games of late.”
McLauchlan went on to explain that he thought English club owners could jeopardise future tours by threatening to withhold their players. Some clubs south of the Border are already campaigning for a shorter Six Nations to cut down on the time their players are away on international duty.
Gatland, who had stressed the importance of being able to win tough games away from home, saw Scotland beat Ireland and Wales at Murrayfield in this year’s Six Nations Championship but also saw them lose in Paris and London. He also spent time in the Scotland camp before one of the home games.
In addition to Hogg and Seymour, the Lions squad includes 16 players from England, 12 from Wales and 11 from Ireland. Wales forward Sam Warburton has been named as captain for the second time, while England skipper Dylan Hartley and lock Joe Launchbury are among the high-profile omissions from the squad. The tour begins on 3 June and runs until 8 July.
Source : HeraldScotland