British and Irish Lions’ matchday test squad tomorrow to feature two Borderers for first time in 24 years
It’s rugby’s British and Irish Lions’ first game of their current tour against South Africa tomorrow, July 24, and not only does their matchday test squad feature two Borderers for the first time since 1997 but it also contains more Scots than any other since 1989.
Scotland captain Stuart Hogg is in the starting line-up for this weekend’s match in Cape Town, and fellow ex-Hawick player Rory Sutherland is among the replacements.
Duhan van der Merwe and Ali Price are also set to start, with Hamish Watson joining Sutherland on the substitutes’ bench.
If Sutherland, 28, gets the nod from head coach Warren Gatland to take to the field, it will be the first time two players from the region have played in a test match for the Lions since Gala’s Gregor Townsend, one of Gatland’s assistant coaches on this tour, and Kelso’s Alan Tait lined up alongside each other in Durban in South Africa in June 1997.
They were among three Scots playing in that 18-15 victory, the other being Tom Smith, a Londoner by birth.
Also in that touring squad were Gala’s Derek White and Hawick’s Tony Stanger.
This summer’s touring party includes a further three Scots - Chris Harris, Finn Russell and Zander Fagerson, all having featured in pre-test warm-up games.
That tally of eight is Scotland’s biggest representation in a Lions squad since 1989.
The five of them selected for tomorrow’s matchday squad is also the most for 32 years.
The nine Scots in that year’s Australian touring party included five Borderers – Jed-Forest’s Gary Armstrong, Kelso’s John Jeffrey, Melrose’s Craig Chalmers and Gala’s Peter Dods and Derek White, plus, at a push, Melrose’s Finlay Calder.
Tomorrow’s game, being screened live by Sky Sports, kicks off at 5pm.
The present Lions tour is Hogg’s third after playing two provincial games in New Zealand in 2017 and five in Australia in 2013 besides the two games he’s featured in this time round. Tomorrow will be the 29-year-old’s first test match, though.
It’s fellow ex-Green Sutherland’s first tour, and the Gala man started the Lions’ 28-10 warm-up win against Japan in Edinburgh on Saturday, June 26; came off the bench 51 minutes into their 54-7 defeat of Cell C Sharks in Johannesburg on Wednesday, July 7; featured in the starting XV against the same opponents in Pretoria on Saturday, July 12, playing for 55 minutes of that 71-31 victory; and, on the pitch alongside Hogg in the Lions’ red for the first time, started last weekend and got 48 minutes’ game-time.
Exeter Chief Hogg and Worcester Warrior Sutherland are among 13 ex-Hawick players called up by the Lions, their predecessors being Bob Burnet, Willie Burnet, Doug Davies, Colin Deans, Derrick Grant, Alex Laing, Hugh McLeod, Jim Renwick, Tony Stanger, Alan Tomes and Willie Welsh.
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