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Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 15:13 UK

Telfer worried by low Lions count

Euan Murray and Nathan Hines will be in the Lions' party
Murray and Hines are the only Scots in the Lions' squad

Former British and Irish Lions coach Jim Telfer believes Scottish rugby must be worried by the low representation for this year's tour to South Africa.

Only Euan Murray and Nathan Hines have made Ian McGeechan's 37-man squad.

"We should be concerned," Telfer told BBC Scotland. "After the autumn Tests I think there were eight or nine players in the frame.

"Form after the new year hasn't been good - and it's really down to team performance in the Six Nations."

On the previous two tours in 2001 and 2005, Scotland had three representatives in the original squads.

And this is the lowest number of Scots to travel with the Lions since 1930, when only Hawick's WB Welsh made the trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Australian-born Hines, 32, has won 58 Scotland caps at Lock, while 28-year-old Northampton prop Murray has played 28 times.

"The reason we don't have many is because the national team has under-achieved," added Telfer, who assisted McGeechan on the victorious Lions tour of 1997.

The attitudes of the players and their ambition to do well in the Six Nations has to improve

Former British and Irish Lions coach Jim Telfer

"The players have under-achieved personally. They have to look at themselves.

"Coaching is only part of the problem. The attitudes of the players, and their ambition to do well in the Six Nations has to improve, in my opinion.

"I had a meeting with Ian McGeechan, and spoke with him as recently as Monday morning about a number of players.

"So, I've had some input but, at the end of the day, the other coaching staff have to work with those selected.

"Between now and the end of May there could be injuries within the chosen party, so Scotsmen shouldn't be too despondent because they will be on the back-up group."

During his playing days Telfer went on two Lions tours, first to New Zealand in 1966, and then to South Africa two years later.

However, despite turning out in six Tests for the Lions he was unable to finish on the winning side.

Former Scotland number eight John Beattie travelled on two Lions tours in the 1980s.

And he believes the composition of McGeechan's squad - 14 Ireland players, 13 Welshmen, eight from England and two Scots - is indicative of perceptions of the Scottish game.

"It tells you that our rugby is down the pecking order," Beattie told BBC Scotland.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

"But I think if you compare the coaching and conditioning south of the border, it's better, and they have better players.

"However, I do think there are Scottish players who are better than people who will be going.

"Alasdair Strokosh is better, Chris Cusiter is better than some of them, Thom Evans in a good team would be better, John Barclay's as good as anybody out there.

"But because they've been playing in a Scotland team that's underperforming they're not going."

Former Scotland captain Gavin Hastings, who played six times for the Lions between 1989 and 1993, says being part of the tour will provide invaluable experience for those involved.

But he also recognised that McGeechan had to base his selection on current form.

"When you're on such a short tour you can't afford to carry anyone," said Hastings.

"Four years ago, so many players were picked to go to New Zealand that were either injured or not on form at all.

"But, with Glasgow and Edinburgh getting knocked out of the Heineken Cup early on, these players don't get a chance - apart from the Scotland games - to show what kind of form they're in.

"And obviously it was a disappointing performance by Scotland in the Six Nations."

Scotland won just one of their five matches - against Italy - and finished second bottom of the table.

Those results eventually led to Frank Hadden leaving his post as head coach on 2 April.



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see also
O'Connell handed Lions captaincy
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union


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