There has not been a Scottish coach involved with the Lions since Ian McGeechan led the world’s most famous touring side to a 2-1 series defeat in South Africa back in 2009 – but we are led to believe that there could be two involved this summer when the world champion Springboks will once again provide the opposition. 

Head coach Warren Gatland – who is taking charge of his third consecutive trip – will name his assistant coaches tomorrow morning, with Scotland defence coach Steve Tandy now expected to join Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend (attack) in that line-up.

This sort of influence at the top can only be a good thing for those hoping to see an end to the pitiful run of Scotland having had no more than three players named in the initial squad for any of the last five Lions expeditions. 

The late withdrawal of Andy Farrell – who has decided that he needs to focus on Ireland’s planned summer trip to the Pacific Islands – has opened the door for Tandy, who takes most of the credit for a remarkable tightening up in Scotland’s defence since his appointment ahead of the 2020 Six Nations (although Townsend’s willingness as head coach to give that area of the game more focus during the last 18 months has also been a major factor). 

Tandy might be a relative newcomer at international level but Scotland’s recent record as the meanest defence in the 2020 Six Nations and the second meanest during this year’s competition means his credentials are pretty compelling. The fact that the 41-year-old Welshman spent six years in charge of the Ospreys while Gatland was coaching Wales may also have worked in his favour. 

Meanwhile, kicking coach Neil Jenkins, fitness coach Paul Stridgeon and several other members of Gatland’s old back-up and medical team with Wales are expected to tour again. 

Scrum coach Graham Rowntree and forwards coach Steve Borthwick – both of whom were involved om the 2017 tour of New Zealand – have also apparently been late call-offs. It has been suggested that Robin McBryde, who joined the Leinster coaching staff in 2019 after 13 years working with Wales, could fit the bill as a potential call-up. It has also been mooted that Gatland will go with just four assistants rather than five as initially planned, although not having a scrum specialist in South Africa seems foolhardy. 

With so much uncertainty over the viability of the tour due to current Covid-related issues with international travel, plus the late call-offs of Farrell, Rowntree and Borthwick, it will be a relief for Gatland to get this morning’s announcement out the way – but he won’t have much time to draw breath because he now has just over three weeks to finalise what is expected to be a 36-strong playing squad for the trip, with that announcement scheduled for the 6th May. 

Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Hamish Watson are Scotland’s front-runners, while Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Ali Price, Chris Harris, Sean Maitland and Duhan van Der Merwe could all come into contention. Not all of these players will make the cut, but Scotland’s improved consistency plus the influence of Townsend and Tandy in the selection process means that half a dozen Scots is a reasonable expectation. 

“If you are looking at wins, to win in France and win in London, no team has done that during the last two years, but our team have,” said Townsend a fortnight ago. “If you are going to look at playing one of the best teams in the world in South Africa, our players have won out there whether it is with crowds or not, so you’ve got to then say that the players have put themselves in position to be on that tour.  

“There will be a few head-to-heads for selection, no doubt, but our players have put their hands up.” 

Where all this leaves Scotland is a separate matter. There is no set itinerary for this summer at the moment but Townsend has confirmed that matches against Georgia, Romania, Spain, Japan and England ‘A’ are all options being investigated, which should provide golden opportunities for emerging coaches such as Mike Blair and John Dalziel to take on extra responsibility.