Rory Sutherland was shaking, Jamie George was relieved and Chris Harris found the whole thing slightly bizarre – earning a call-up for the British & Irish Lions is certainly an emotional experience.
For the 37 men selected in Warren Gatland’s squad for the tour to South Africa this summer, they can now look forward to one of the greatest honours as a rugby player after the nerves of watching the announcement live.
Most players don’t get any prior heads-up that they’ve been selected – instead finding out when the rest of the world does – and Scotland prop Rory Sutherland was left stunned after seeking some solitude to watch a stream of the Lions announcement.
“I can’t believe it – I’m absolutely shaking,” he said. “I just watched the feed in the car just now. I’m absolutely delighted, over the moon.
“I was asked by our media guy at Edinburgh to watch it with the guys but I wanted to watch it by myself, so I went into the car but I was struggling to get the feed on.
“I saw a couple of names had been read out, then my name got read out so I’m obviously absolutely delighted.”
The car seemed to be a popular place to watch for the selected players, as another prop, Wales star Wyn Jones, also sought solace in his vehicle and was similarly shocked to hear his name.
“It’s slightly surreal to be honest – watching the video and finding out in that manner is quite nerve-wracking,” he said. “But I’m chuffed to bits to be involved.
“We [Scarlets] had been training, so I jumped in the car, didn’t even shower, just grabbed a takeaway coffee and jumped in the car to watch it.
“I didn’t quite have time to get home, so I watched it on my own there. You just wait for your name to be called out. There’s nothing more you can do at this point but it’s such a privilege to have your name called.”
Sutherland and Jones are both heading on their first Lions tour but the announcement doesn’t get any easier to watch even if you’ve pulled on the famous red jersey before, as 2017 tourist Jamie George explained after getting the nod for a second time.
“I’m pretty relieved,” said the England hooker, who started all three Tests against the All Blacks back in 2017. “It’s such a nerve-wracking time. The coverage dragged on a little bit, it’s tough to watch as a player!
“It’s a huge relief and a massive honour – I’m ecstatic to be part of the squad, it’s so special.”
Some players were informed they had been called up in front of their club teammates, including Northampton Saints duo Courtney Lawes and Dan Biggar, with the England forward left completely stunned after not even receiving a ‘save the date’ email from Lions staff for the announcement.
“I was pretty surprised, I just didn’t really have any clue,” said Lawes, who also toured in 2017. “Some players got emails and things like that, but I didn’t get an email.
“I didn’t last time either, so I was pretty much in the dark and waiting to see if I would get a shot basically.
“We were out training, then Boydy [Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd] pulled us all in and let everybody know that me and Biggs were in the team.
“It was very cool. I’m glad I was in because it would have been awkward if Biggs was in and I wasn’t!”
Scotland centre Chris Harris was training with his club side Gloucester when he found out and, despite being shellshocked after being something of a surprise Lions call-up, wasn’t even given the afternoon off training.
“It feels pretty bizarre to be honest,” explained Harris. “I’m absolutely delighted but I really wasn’t expecting it. It’s just crazy – I don’t know how to act right now!
“It’s a strange one, finding out in the middle of training and then you’ve got to get back out there and do some training!
“It was pretty special to be fair. I’d barely seen my name come up before the boys were on top of me! The boys just jumped on me and I was just in shock.”
And Ireland forward Tadhg Beirne was slightly miffed when the backs were named first but made sure to be straight on the phone with his family after being included among the pack.
“I remember watching last time and they did it alphabetically but when they said they were doing the backs first I was like ‘ugh, I’m going to have to wait now’,” laughed Beirne.
“Then they did the forwards, I was first out, so it was nice to be announced early in the forwards group!
“I called my mum and she was on Facetime with my sister, who is over in Australia and was watching it. So I rang them, lot of excitement there, then I rang my dad straight after as well.
“It’s starting to sink in now and I’m starting to enjoy it. It’s something I grew up watching as a kid and it’s the biggest honour you can get as a rugby player after playing for your country, so I’m massively proud.”