Nostalgia: Borders rugby grounds a Lions’ den in years gone by

The Borders has been a veritable Lions’ den over the years, even if call-ups to the multinational rugby squad have been few and far between of late and the region hasn’t been represented at test level for over a decade.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 10:23 am
Updated Friday, 9th April 2021, 11:33 am
Ross Ford being tackled by Bismarck du Plessis and Wynand Olivier during the third test match between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions at Ellis Park Stadium on July 4, 2009, in Johannesburg, South Africa (Photo by Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Hawick have accounted for the lion’s share of the region’s British and Irish Lions turning out a dozen over the decades.

Current Scotland captain Stuart Hogg, called up for the Lions’ last two tours and expected to get the call again this summer from head coach Warren Gatland, follows in the footsteps of Bob Burnet, Willie Burnet, Doug Davies, Colin Deans, Derrick Grant, Alex Laing, Hugh McLeod, Jim Renwick, Tony Stanger, Alan Tomes and Willie Welsh.

Melrose are halfway to that tally of 12, having come up with half a dozen Lions – Finlay Calder, Craig Chalmers, Frank Laidlaw, Jim Telfer, Doddie Weir and Peter Wright.

Stuart Hogg breaks with the ball during the match between the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians and the British and Irish Lions at Toll Stadium on June 3, 2017, in Whangarei, New Zealand (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Gala can match that, having also produced a six-strong pride of Lions. Besides current Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, their men in red were Peter Dods, Tom Elliott, Nathan Hines, Jock Turner and Derek White.

Kelso aren’t far behind with five, namely Ross Ford, Roger Baird, John Jeffrey, Alan Tait and Ken Smith.

Selkirk has yielded four Lions – Ronnie Cowan, Iain Paxton, John Rutherford and Jock Waters.

One behind them are Jed-Forest with Gary Armstrong, Greig Laidlaw and Roy Laidlaw.

Greig Laidlaw being tackled by Vince Aso of the Hurricanes during the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand at the Westpac Stadium on June 27 in Wellington (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Aberdeen-born Chris Cusiter also got a Lions call-up in 2005 while playing for the Border Reivers, as did Fife’s Ryan Grant, with the Galashiels-based team from 2005 to 2007, in 2013.

They’re among seven players for the now-defunct regional team to be drafted in by the Lions, the others being Townsend, Armstrong, Ford, Weir and Greig Laidlaw.

Exeter Chiefs star Hogg, 28, and Greig Laidlaw, 35, now playing for NTT Communications, alias the Shining Arcs, in Ichikawa in Japan, were the only Borderers on the last Lions tour, to New Zealand in 2017, though the former was forced to pull out before the test matches started after getting injured in a provincial game.

Hogg was the only one on the 2013 trip to Australia, though Ryan Grant, 35, now head coach at Glasgow Academicals, was also there.

Ford, 36, and Australian-born Hines, 45, were called up for the Lions’ tour of South Africa in 2009, the former being summoned after Ireland’s Jerry Flannery was forced out by an elbow injury.

Ford, Scotland’s most-capped player, with 110 appearances to his name, was given one test outing, from the bench, against the Springboks in July 2009, making him the only Scot to play a test for the Lions that summer and, to date, the last Borderer to do so.

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