Thursday, July 4, 2013

A tale of one Scowimblian and one Scolionian

On Saturday, Richie Gray will become the third different Scolionian in as many weeks to serve as the sole Scottish representative in the 23-man British and Irish Lions test squad.  If the fate of his two predecessors is anything to go by, he won't actually be allowed to take the field of play, in which case all 240 minutes of this year's series against Australia will have passed by without any Scottish input whatsoever.  Quite literally the only Scottish thing about this Lions test team has been the thistle on the jersey.

I haven't mentioned my misgivings about this turn of events up till now, because self-evidently this hasn't been the traditional tale of Anglocentric powers-that-be forgetting that the Celtic nations exist.  Instead we've had a New Zealander - who is the current coach of Wales and a former coach of Ireland - selecting Welsh-dominated sides that have also contained a fair smattering of English and Irish players.  At first glance, it was hard to think of any particular reason why he would be discriminating against Scottish players, other than an honest perception that they aren't good enough (which he can arguably be forgiven for based on the national side's results in recent years).

However, now that Brian O'Driscoll's sensational omission from Saturday's squad has opened the floodgates for criticisms from other parts of these islands that Gatland is effectively selecting a 'Wales + Guest Stars' team, perhaps we can at last feel emboldened to air the concerns that our Scolionians aren't getting a fair crack of the whip.  Indeed, a cynical person might almost conclude that Gatland is just randomly choosing a different token Scot to sit on the replacements bench each week, but without any real intention of bringing that player on unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

One Welsh newspaper has, to its credit, picked up on these concerns already, and even quotes a disgruntled Scotland supporter as saying he'll be supporting Australia on Saturday.  I wouldn't quite go that far, but it's certainly hard to passionately get behind a team that you have no stake in.

That said, I'm not sure Keith Wood's misty-eyed nostalgia for the days when the Lions represented a genuine blending together of four nations' strengths is entirely justified.  I had a look at the team's historical results the other day, and I was finding it increasingly hard to understand how on Earth the "legend of the Lions" ever got going in the first place - their track record really isn't that much to write home about.  Incredibly, the famous 1971 series was their one and only victory over New Zealand, and their record against the Southern Hemisphere's other traditional superpower South Africa is only marginally better.  There's no real evidence at all of the "Better Together" effect that Brit Nat politicians like to bang on about during events like the Olympics - if anything, there's some evidence that the reverse is true, with examples of individual 'Home Nations' outperforming the Lions against exactly the same opposition.  In 1983, the "worst ever Lions" were pulverised by a New Zealand team that later in the year was beaten by England at Twickenham and could only manage a draw against Scotland at Murrayfield.  And in 2001, Martin Johnson led the Lions to defeat in Australia, but two years later led a theoretically weaker England side to victory in the World Cup final against the same opposition.

*  *  *

So not a vintage year for the Scolionians whatever happens on Saturday, but by marked contrast Andy Murray is now well on his way to further cementing his place as the greatest ever Scowimblian.  Things didn't look quite so promising at about 5.30 this afternoon, so huge credit to Murray for digging himself out of what looked like an impossible hole.  Let's hope he spares our nerves on Friday, although I wouldn't bank on it!  If he manages to dodge that bullet, we can all look forward to the London media once again trotting out that age-old question - can Andy Murray become the first British player to win a Grand Slam title since Andy Murray way back in 2012?


  1. You've fallen into the trap of conflating team results with individual ability.
    According to the quisling apologists Scotland are rubbish so ALL of our players are rubbish.

    By the same logic George Best wouldn't get selected for any combined teams as Northern Ireland were useless.

    It is Scotophobia combined with the cringe nothing else can explain it.

    Also remember the attempts to destroy the independent football team with the waffle about the wonderful lions? And note that England were just stuffed in the RWC 7's final, won by Wales 4 years ago but are to be replaced by a teamgb side for the next global event.

  2. If previous series are a guide, Richie Gray will get a 5 minute run on toward the end if the game - just so that they can say that all four home nations have been represented during the actual tests (rather than simply the warm up games). The whole thing's a sham and the SRU should withdraw and the team be renamed the All English and Irish Lions (which is really all it is nowadays).