McGeechan backs former Stormer as Lions bolter

Former British & Irish Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan has named former Stormers centre Huw Jones among the potential bolters for their upcoming tour of South Africa.

McGeechan, who played for the Lions and coached them on three tours, wrote in his weekly column for the Daily Telegraph that he was impressed by Jones’ recent form for Scotland.

The 27-year-old has endured a difficult period over the past couple of years, being left out of Scotland’s squad for the 2019 World Cup. However, Jones looked in good form during the 2021 Six Nations, scoring tries against Ireland and Italy.

‘Warren Gatland is faced with three positions where there is less obvious certainty and leaves the way clear for bolters to emerge: scrumhalf, hooker and No 8,’ McGeechan wrote.

‘At scrumhalf, Conor Murray is the clear favourite to be Test starter, but my bolter would be Danny Care. He offers something different from virtually every other No 9 and is in cracking form.

‘At No 8, two possible bolters are Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt. I worry slightly about Simmonds’ size, but if he played alongside a big six like Tadhg Beirne or moved to six himself, with his speed he could be a really effective performer on the hard grounds of the high veldt [sic]. Ditto Dombrandt, who has amazing mobility and ball-carrying ability for a big man. I would be tempted to take one or the other alongside Taulupe Faletau and CJ Stander.

‘At hooker, I thought Scotland’s George Turner was fantastic in this Six Nations. He is frantically busy, works his way into the game well and would fit the sort of fast-paced, ball-carrying Uli Schmidt-style hooker template for success in South Africa.

‘Yet that is by no means the end. In the backs, I’d look at Racing 92’s Simon Zebo, who plays with a joyous freedom and would make a great tourist. Scotland’s Huw Jones first came to prominence while playing in South Africa so we know he can prosper there, while he proved during this Six Nations that he is back to his try-scoring best. Alongside those strong shouts, if I had the time and the resources I would also look at Marcus Smith, Hugo Keenan, Chris Harris and Duhan van der Merwe. It is easy to pick 50, and it is easy to pick 20, but it is the final group of 15 who often define the tour.’

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Lions head coach Warren Gatland will name his squad for the 2021 tour on 6 May.

Photo: World Rugby