How many Scots will be named in the British and Irish Lions squad?

Richie Gray, Greig Laidlaw, Scotland, February 2013.
Richie Gray and Greig Laidlaw will discover this week if they will tour with the British and Irish Lions.© SNS Group

When Warren Gatland announces his squad for the British and Irish Lions on Tuesday, the numbers from each country will indicate where rugby’s balance of power currently sits in the islands.

The Lions are likely to feature a strong contingent from Six Nations champions Wales, while England and Ireland could supply an even number of players between them.

Scotland will again lag behind in seats on the plane to Australia this summer but could improve on their last haul of Lions.

In 2009, just three Scots travelled to South Africa – prop Euan Murray, who withdrew through injury, lock Nathan Hines who was suspended during the tour for a dangerous tackle, and Mike Blair, a midweek scrum half who was drafted in late to replace injury Irishman Tomas O’Leary.

After the autumn tests disaster for Scotland, it was feared that an even smaller contingent could be destined for down under.

But an encouraging campaign in the spring has put several names in the frame. In my mock squad, five have been selected to tour.

Stuart Hogg gets the nod to back-up outstanding Welsh full back Leigh Halfpenny. The Glasgow Warrior impressed in the championship, scoring tries against England and Italy.

His pace and play-making ability should see him selected either ahead of, or alongside, the experienced but out-of-form Rob Kearney.

After a superb debut Six Nations, Sean Maitland is whispered as a dark horse for the Lions. The powerful finishing of Tim Visser will likely just pip the former Maoris All Black though.

I believe there is a strong case to have Greig Laidlaw in the touring party. The Edinburgh half back’s guile and rugby brain are fantastic assets and his exceptional place kicking should win him the nod.

Laidlaw’s versatility out of scrum half and stand off may also go in his favour.

Perhaps the most widely tipped Scottish Lion in the lead-up to the squad announcement is Richie Gray. The lock has just arranged a summer move from Sale Sharks to French outfit Castres and his stock has never been higher.

Gray has an outstanding chance of being a test starter. Alun Wyn Jones should get a shirt so Gray will have to show his form and talent outshines the veteran nous and leadership of Paul O’Connell.

Finally from a Scots perspective, I take Ryan Grant to travel with the prop corps. The Warriors star was born to compete at the scrum and this year showed outstanding form in a formidable Scotland front row.

He gives balance as a specialist loosehead and will duel Cian Healy to start, although Gethin Jenkins is comfortable on either side.

Other Scot hopes may be waiting on a phonecall this summer in the event of injuries to the Lions squad. Kelly Brown had a superb, underrated spring, but is up against a class of flankers that is bursting with talent.

Matt Scott, the Edinburgh centre, is blossoming into a fine player but again sees his position packed with players of form, experience and illustrious reputation.

I think Johnny Beattie will be close to Gatland’s thoughts at number eight. His Six Nations outshone that of Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip.

In my squad I’ve taken versatile back-rows with no direct competitor to Toby Faletau. But if the Lions staff wants one man to push the Welshman then Beattie has a decent case.

The British and Irish Lions squad is announced on Tuesday, April 30.

Jamie Borthwick’s British and Irish Lions mock squad

Full backs: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Wingers: George North, Alex Cuthbert (Both Wales), Tim Visser (Scotland), Simon Zebo (Ireland), Chris Ashton (England)

Centres: Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies (both Wales), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Manu Tuilagi, Billy Twelvetrees (both England)

Stand offs: Jonny Sexton (Ireland), Owen Farrell (England)

Scrum halves: Mike Phillips (Wales), Ben Youngs (England), Greig Laidlaw (Scotland)

Props: Cian Healy (Ireland), Gethin Jenkins, Adam Jones (Both Wales), Dan Cole (England), Ryan Grant (Scotland)

Hookers: Rory Best (Ireland), Richard Hibbard (Wales), Tom Youngs (England)

Locks: Richie Gray (Scotland), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), Geoff Parling (England)

Flankers: Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate (all Wales), Tom Croft, Tom Wood (both England), Sean O’Brien (Ireland)

Eights: Toby Faletau (Wales)

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