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Twickenham rout ‘will cost Scots their Lions places’

Former Scotland lock Jim Hamilton fears his countrymen’s 62-21 Six Nations thrashing by England has dashed any hope of significant Lions representation this summer.

Improved performances last autumn and during the early part of the Six Nations had given rise to optimism north of the border, but Hamilton believes the likes of Finn Russell and the Gray brothers, Jonny and Richie, will now be overlooked.

Hamilton told The Rugby Paper: “That defeat by England was a big blow for Scotland; for any tier one nation to concede 60 points is bad news.

“There are still big games in the season to stake claims but are Scotland’s players at the level Warren Gatland wants for the Lions? I don’t think so.

“There aren’t any Scottish coaches in that set-up so that will go against them and, ultimately, Warren, Steve Borthwick and Graham Rowntree will pick guys they know, which will be a blow for Finn Russell and the Gray brothers.”

Highly-rated Jonny Gray had been viewed as a viable candidate for one of five locking positions but Hamilton reckons his chance has gone.

He explained: “I’d love to see a Scottish second row in there but I’m just not sure whether someone like Jonny is what Gatland’s looking for.

“Yes, he’s a great carrier for Scotland and makes an immense number of tackles, but is he going to be a carrier for the Lions? Probably not when you’re going to have Toby Faletau, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje there, to name but three.

“You’ve got much better, more powerfully destructive ball carriers so you think, ‘Okay, where’s Jonny Gray going to be?’ Lineout, yes, but is that going to be enough? I don’t think so.”

Asked to name his five locks for New Zealand, the vastly experienced Hamilton says: “Alun-Wyn Jones, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Maro Itoje and Iain Henderson.

“Alun-Wyn Jones is a dead cert, Launchbury was outstanding in the Six Nations and has catapulted himself up that selection list, while Henderson dropped off to start with but was very good and powerful in the last two games.

“Maro Itoje is so powerful and athletic he has to go, while I would pick George Kruis over Courtney Lawes even though he’s been injured.”

Justifying his selection of Kruis, Hamilton says: “George is up there with the Brodie Retallicks and Sam Whitelocks now as an all-round second row; he’s got the fitness, carrying ability and his work-rate around the tackle is fantastic.

“George was one of the first names on England’s teamsheet and he’ll be back before the end of the season, so the injury shouldn’t preclude him from being picked. He’s one of the best in the world and the Lions will need him.”

NEALE HARVEY

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