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Scotland backed to benefit from experience of Lions contingent

·3-min read

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has picked all eight of his Lions contingent for the Autumn Nations Series in expectation that their experience in South Africa over the summer will ripple throughout the squad.

An extend group of 42 have been selected for the Tests against Tonga, Australia, South Africa and Japan at Murrayfield that begin on October 30, although only home-based players will be considered against the Pacific Islanders as the match falls outside the international window.

Scotland produced their highest Lions representation since 1989 and were rewarded when Stuart Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe, Ali Price, Rory Sutherland, Hamish Watson, Chris Harris and Finn Russell made appearances in the 2-1 series defeat.

Townsend has confirmed that all eight, the other being Zander Fagerson, are fit and insists their participation in the tour matches and collisions with the Springboks will only benefit his team.

“They thrived in the environment. I was so proud of how well they integrated with others, the way they played and the way they trained,” said Townsend, who acted as the Lions’ attack coach.

“And how well they dealt with diversity or, in the case of Finn Russell and his injury, disappointment. They bounced back from that.

“They’ll be better for the experience and will have the confidence of having gone to South Africa and been in that company. I’m sure that will spread around the group.

Gregor Townsend is proud of his Scotland players performed for the Lions
Gregor Townsend is proud of his Scotland players performed for the Lions (Jane Barlow/PA)

“They all grew. It’s hard to say what it’s done to their form this year because three of them haven’t played yet. Hamish has been out with an injury and Zander Fagerson and Ali are only coming back this weekend. But I saw the improvement they made during the tour.

“During the tour and especially near the end of the tour, my mind was on our Scotland players and what they were getting out of it. It was always in the back of the mind – ‘will this help Scotland?’.

“That’s what I was so proud of, that our players did so well in that tour and grew as people. They trained really well and played well. That should be the biggest benefit for the national team.”

Scotland posted stirring away wins against England and France during this year’s Six Nations and Townsend is looking to strengthen the conviction that they can topple heavyweight opponents on a regular basis.

“We want to build on those very good performances that we have seen from our team,” he said.

“The major one is belief. (We) believe now that we go into games expecting to win and knowing that if we perform well, we have got the players to beat anybody. That belief has been growing through experiences like winning at Twickenham and in Paris.

“But it also comes from other experiences like the Lions tour and what the boys are doing at their clubs. Belief is what is going to drive this group over the next year or two years.”

Scotland have lost lock Jonny Gray, prop Simon Bergen and centres Cameron Redpath and Duncan Taylor to injury for the entire autumn.

Twelve uncapped players have been picked in Ewan Ashman, Josh Bayliss, Rory Darge, Dylan Richardson, Luke Crosbie, Jamie Hodgson, Marshall Sykes, Pierre Schoeman, Rufus McLean, Jamie Dobie, Ross Thompson and Sione Tuipulotu.

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