Hawick’s Rory Sutherland ‘touch and go’ to be in running for Lions place because of shoulder injury, says his club boss

Borders rugby star Rory Sutherland’s chances of selection for the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa could be dashed by the shoulder injury he sustained in Scotland’s last game of this year’s Six Nations.

Rory Sutherland in action during the Guinness Six Nations match between Scotland and Italy at Murrayfield on March 20 in Edinburgh (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Rory Sutherland in action during the Guinness Six Nations match between Scotland and Italy at Murrayfield on March 20 in Edinburgh (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

It is not known yet whether that injury will require surgery, but even if it doesn’t, the 27-year-old would still be up against the clock to be in contention for a place in the Lions squad due to be announced on Thursday, May 6, according to his club head coach, Richard Cockerill

Failing to make that initial 36-man squad wouldn’t necessarily rule the Edinburgh loosehead prop out of the July and August tour, though, as there would still be scope for a call-up later on as a replacement or as additional cover, as was the case with fellow Borderers Greig Laidlaw in New Zealand in 2017, Ross Ford in South Africa in 2009 and Tony Stanger in South Africa in 1997.

It’s now just short of a month since former Hawick and Gala star Sutherland had to go off injured during Scotland’s 27-23 victory against France in Paris, but the timescale for his recovery remains uncertain, making him touch and go to be fit in time for the Lions’ warm-up match against Japan at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday, June 26, or their first tour game, against DHL Stormers, on Saturday, July 3, or, alternatively, for summer tests being lined up by Scotland but yet to be confirmed.

The Lions’ first game against the Springboks isn’t until Saturday, July 24, offering further scope for recovery for Sutherland, however.

“Rory is having more scans on his shoulder to decide whether he needs surgery or whether it can just be rehabbed,” said Edinburgh boss Cockerill.

“His first diagnosis was a lot better than it could have been potentially, so we’re hoping now that he will have another scan which will show a bit more detail and hopefully we’ll be able to avoid the surgeon’s knife.

“It would still be several weeks if it was non-surgical.

“It would put him in the timeframes potentially to be in and around some of those tours, but it would be touch and go, I think.”

According to Cockerill, a mid-tour call-up might be Sutherland’s best hope of getting to line up alongside fellow ex-Hawick player Stuart Hogg in red rather than dark blue, assuming the Scotland captain gets the nod for the third tour in a row, as looks likely.

“As we’ve seen over numerous tours, you might not get picked and be on standby or even not in the reckoning at all, and it only takes an injury or two and suddenly you are propelled into a tour and end up starting in test matches,” said the 50-year-old.

“It’s a long tour. There will be a lot of injuries and instances which will happen, so if you don’t get picked in the first draft, there is always a chance that you can get an opportunity later in the tour.

“There is a lot of rugby to be played still, and there are going to be some twists and turns before the Lions play that first test against South Africa.”

Darcy Graham, another ex-Hawick player touted by some earlier in the year as meriting a Lions call-up, is also facing a lengthy spell out with a shoulder injury.

“Darcy has had surgery on his shoulder to repair a long-standing issue,” said Cockerill.

“That was scanned last week and the best form of treatment, given where we are in the season, was to have surgery to repair the injury, and that will probably be the best part of between 12 and 16 weeks to recover.”