Ali Price admits the British and Irish Lions’ Scottish contingent are desperate to be involved against Japan at Murrayfield.
The clash on June 26 serves as the curtain raiser to the tour to South Africa with Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg the only players from the eight-strong platoon of Scots unavailable for selection.
Russell lines up for Racing 92 against La Rochelle in the semi-finals of the Top 14 on Friday night, while Hogg will battle with Sale in the Gallagher Premiership play-offs the following day as Exeter near the climax of their title defence.
The remaining six of Scotland’s highest squad representation since 1989 are present at the Lions’ training camp in Jersey and all of them are eager to play in just the tourists’ third fixture on these shores.
“It is massive for all the Scottish players to try and get ourselves involved in the 23 for that Japan game,” Glasgow scrum-half Price said.
“Our friends and family will be able to come and watch, albeit from the stands and there will be no meet and great after the game, but the fact they will be there, for most of the Scottish lads bar Hoggy and Finn….
“It’s an opportunity to get the first game under your belt for the Lions, so it’s a big carrot for these first two weeks.”
An additional incentive to be involved in the Lions’ first meeting with Japan – which could yet be given full Test status – is that it might be the tourists’ only match in front of fans.
Approval has been given for a crowd of 16,500 to attend Murrayfield, while in South Africa, all games will be staged behind closed doors due to a rising number of coronavirus cases and a vaccination programme that is still in its infancy.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I saw a few games in the Premiership when they had 3-4,000 back and it does make a difference to the energy of the place,” Price said.
“Watching the football in the Euros, having fans back, it creates a buzz and as players you can feed off that. There’s nothing better.”
Price is competing with Conor Murray and Gareth Davies for the scrum-half duties in the series against the Springboks, which opens in Cape Town on July 24.
All three are present among the main bulk of the touring party who have gathered in jersey and with no clear hierarchy in the position, Prince is targeting a Test place.
“No one is here to make up the numbers and I would be lying to say I was just happy to be here. Everyone is happy, but we want to be involved as much as we can,” Price said.
“Those three games at the end of the tour is what we are all gunning for. When the games start coming and squads get secluded, it is about taking your opportunities when you get them.”
A number of players and staff who had not already had both doses of their coronavirus vaccines received their second jabs on Tuesday.
Another group will be seen next Tuesday with the day in the week chosen in the event of any side effects arising – Wednesdays are designated as rest days for the squad, thereby minimising any interruptions to training.
The intent is to have the whole touring party fully inoculated before they arrive in South Africa.
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