Gregor Townsend has said that he feels “proud” to be a part of the British and Irish Lions’ first game in Scotland and says the match at Murrayfield will be a special occasion for all involved.
Scotland head coach Townsend is part of Warren Gatland’s coaching team for the Lions’ tour and has been preparing the players for Saturday’s test against Japan at Murrayfield.
The match is the Lions’ first on home soil since 2005 but makes history as the first to be played at a Scottish stadium.
Two Scots will make their Lions debut on Saturday with Rory Sutherland and Duhan van der Merwe starting, while Ali Price will feature from the bench.
Two others were due to start but are left out. Hamish Watson suffered a concussion in training and Zander Fagerson misses out as a precaution after a back spasm.
Townsend believes Japan will provide a good challenge ahead of the tour of South Africa but that a ‘home’ fixture for the Scottish contingent adds something extra.
“It is great,” he said.
“I spoke to the players today about how proud I was that the Lions are playing in Scotland at BT Murrayfield.
“To see that happening on Saturday will be great. It is great for the Lions themselves to have crowds back but also for the people of Scotland and a number of our supporters.
“It will be great for those Scottish players – two fewer than at the beginning of the week – but I am sure they will be even more motivated running out there knowing their families are there.
“I believe a lot of the players’ families from England, Ireland and Wales are coming up to the game so for those who are making their debuts as Lions it will be a special moment.
“To do it ‘at home’ makes it even more special.”
A former Scotland and Lions player, Townsend has spoken about the importance of bonding as a squad and social events after training is done can help bring a diverse squad together. He said that the group had been watching their football equivalents at Euro 2020, though he had kept a low profile as Scotland exited the competition.
“We just kept quite quiet the other night,” he said.
“We were out for a meal and there was football on the TV and the restaurant owner said ‘well we’ve got the England game on so we’re going to have to switch over’.
“Obviously there were a lot of other people in the restaurant who wanted to watch the England game and, literally as he switched it over to the Scotland game, within five seconds we were 1-0 down.
“So I just kept my head down for a while. And in the second half I just told him to keep the England game on.
“But it was great on Friday night with the England v Scotland game on and obviously we’ve got a lot of Welsh players and management here and they are in to the next round.
“So we will support one of the other two teams now.”