British & Irish Lions
Blair handed Lions call-up
May 11, 2009
Mike Blair has been called up to the Lions squad to tour South Africa © Getty Images
British and Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeehchan has called Scotland skipper Mike Blair up as replacement for Ireland's Tomas O'Leary. Scrum-half O'Leary broke his ankle on club duty for Munster only three days after being named in the touring party, allowing for Blair to step in.
Blair has 58 caps for Scotland and was tipped by many as a Test scrum-half before a dip in form during the 2009 Six Nations. He is only the second international captain in the squad, joining Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll. His inclusion takes the Scottish contingent to three, with prop Euan Murray and lock Nathan Hines the other representatives.
"I'm really pleased to have been given the opportunity to tour with the British and Irish Lions, it is a massive honour," said Blair. "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 original squad was announced, I've just focused on playing well for Edinburgh and helping the team climb up the Magners League and fortunately that has helped me to get selected. I would like to thank the coaches at both Scotland and Edinburgh for helping me to achieve inclusion into the Lions squad and I'm excited about the challenge ahead."
Blair beat out competition from England's Danny Care, Wales' Dwayne Peel and his fellow Scot Chris Cusiter, and McGeechan admitted that the decision to select any player had been difficult due to the injury suffered by O'Leary.
"Sport can be very cruel," said McGeehcan. "One minute Tomas was celebrating his well earned call up to the Lions tour to South Africa, the next he is being carried off injured.
"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 British & Irish Lions squad."
McGeechan has a further decision to make with Wales centre Tom Shanklin also having been ruled out through injury, while O'Leary's Munster team-mate Alan Quinlan is set to appear before the judiciary on Wednesday after being cited for an alleged gouge on Leinster skipper Leo Cullen.