Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Scotland captain Blair relishing second chance

Scotland captain Mike Blair has been called up to the British and Irish Lions squad in place of the injured Tomas O'Leary.

O'Leary was part of the initial 37-man squad named by Ian McGeechan, but was ruled out when he fractured his ankle playing for Munster last month.

Blair, meanwhile, joined fellow home nations skippers Steve Borthwick and Ryan Jones in missing out on selection.

McGeechan said: "Sport can be very cruel. One minute Tomas was celebrating his call-up to the Lions tour to South Africa, the next he is being carried off injured while playing for Munster against Llanelli Scarlets.

"Unfortunately the injury was a serious one and it ruled Tomas out of the tour. We wish Tomas all the very best for a quick recovery.

"The selectors and I have had plenty of time to review the situation in terms of a replacement scrum half and were in agreement that Mike Blair should replace Tomas. He was on our reserve list for such an eventuality.

"Mike is an excellent addition to the squad. As a national captain he is well respected by his peers and his 58 tests for Scotland mark him as a very capable and experienced scrum half."

Blair is the third Scot in the squad, joining prop Euan Murray and lock Nathan Hines and has set his sights on making the most of his second chance.

"I'm really pleased to be given the opportunity to tour with the Lions, it is a massive honour," he said.

"The call-up just goes to show how quickly everything can change in rugby and I'm determined to seize my chance and make an impact.

"Since the squad was announced, I've focused on playing well for Edinburgh and helping us climb the Magners League and fortunately that helped me get selected.

"I would like to thank the coaches at both Scotland and Edinburgh for helping me to achieve inclusion in the squad and I'm excited about the challenge."

Edinburgh coach Andy Robinson is delighted for his player.

He said: "It is an honour for Mike to be selected and a reward for all the hard work he has put in over the past few seasons.

"Mike has matured into an outstanding leader for both Edinburgh and Scotland and he is an intelligent player with a lot to offer the Lions selectors.

"I was fortunate enough to tour with the Lions, both as a player and as a coach and it is the pinnacle of a player's career.

"I'm confident Mike will flourish as a result of the experience."

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