IF you had recently returned from injury and were in with a chance of making a late bid for Lions selection, as Fraser Brown is said to be, playing in a pitiful performance by your club side would clearly do nothing for your prospects.

Similarly, if your general excellence over the course of the season had taken you into contention for a place on the tour to South Africa, as may well be the case with Zander Fagerson, you would not want that pitiful performance to be your last outing before the selection of the squad.

Such, however, is the situation in which the two Glasgow players find themselves after their team’s woeful display against Benetton on Saturday.  Perhaps they were both on a hiding to nothing, in the sense that a solid win by the Warriors in Treviso would have been such a par-for-the-course result that it would surely have had no influence whatsoever on the Lions selectors. But if the inclusion of the two forwards had been teetering on a knife edge, you can rest assured that none of those selectors would be rushing to argue the case for their inclusion.

There may be a case for arguing that a low-key Rainbow Cup game should not matter at all: that no matter how well or how badly any individual plays in such a game should be deemed irrelevant. Yet the problem for our home-based players is that, since Warren Gatland invited his assistant coaches to submit their initial squad lists of 36 a couple of weeks back, they have had nothing but a low-key Rainbow Cup game in which to try and tip the balance.

South of the Border, by contrast, there was a Premiership card at the weekend. And this weekend, while Glasgow and Edinburgh are idle, Bath, Leicester and Ulster will take part in the Challenge Cup semi-finals, while Leinster will compete at the same stage of the Champions Cup. Any Lions contender playing in those games will know he has one last chance to catch the selectors’ eye before the squad is announced on 6th May.

Those selectors are assiduous in their accumulation of evidence for and against each claimant for a place. They will want to see as much proof as possible that a player is capable of consistently competing at the highest level. Anyone playing for Leinster at La Rochelle on Sunday, for example, will have the chance to provide such proof. 

To be fair to Brown, he was easily one of his team’s best performers in their 41-26 defeat in Treviso. To be fair to Fagerson, he should not shoulder too much of the blame, either, for his team’s demotivated display. But you can be sure that, in the case of very close debates between the competing merits of various front-row contenders, the Lions selectors will not bend over backwards to be fair to either man.

Fortunately, several Scottish contenders for a place on the plane to South Africa to have some positive evidence in their favour. That historic victory at Twickenham in February, for instance, has been cited by Lions head coach Warren Gatland as one reason why there will be more Scots in his squad this time.

Fagerson played in that one, as did Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Jonny Gray, Hamish Watson, Chris Harris, Ali Price, Rory Sutherland, George Turner and Duhan van der Merwe. All will have figured in selection discussions.

And of course, they’ll always have Paris. Gray missed out on the 27-23 win over France at the end of March, but the rest were there to give proof of their ability to win at the death in an away fixture against the toughest of opposition - a quality that is of paramount importance, according to Gatland, when it comes to who to choose to take on the Springboks.

So there are still reasons to be hopeful as we look ahead to next week’s Lions announcement. And we may well still be on course for our greatest representation on a tour for some time. But if that transpires, it will be despite the deficiencies of our domestic game, not because of any supposed strengths.