Warren Gatland has challenged Finn Russell to make the Lions No.10 Test jersey his own during this summer’s tour to South Africa.

The head coach believes that Russell has developed the maturity required to spearhead the Lions attack in their three-match series against the Springboks.

Gatland was speaking immediately after naming eight Scots in his 37-man tour squad.

It is the country’s biggest representation on a Lions tour since Finlay Calder led a squad containing nine to Australia in 1989.

Stuart Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe, Chris Harris, Ali Price, Rory Sutherland, Zander Fagerson and Hamish Watson are the other Scots selected.

Lions' Head Coach Warren Gatland

Russell has been called up ahead of Irish legend Johnny Sexton, who has been first choice stand-off on the last two Lions tours.

The Racing star will compete against Dan Biggar of Wales and Owen Farrell of England for game time.

Gatland said: “I thought the best game Finn played in the Six Nations was against France, and what impressed me was his game management – the way he controlled the game, turned France around to put them under pressure, and then moved the ball when the opportunities came.

Finn Russell of Scotland kicks his sides first penalty during the Guinness Six Nations match between England and Scotland at Twickenham
Finn Russell of Scotland kicks his sides first penalty during the Guinness Six Nations match between England and Scotland at Twickenham

“He’s got so much more of a balanced game now in terms of when to run and when to turn teams around with a kick.

“I wanted to send a message, especially to Finn, that we back him, and we have confidence in him to put pressure on other teams and put his hand up for the Test side.

“I thought that was a really good message for me to be able to deliver to someone like Finn.”

Gatland added: “We understand about Johnny Sexton and how disappointed he may be.

“What a player he is, but it came down to the physicality – looking at durability and how tough South Africa is going to be from that point of view.

“The last time Johnny played three consecutive weekends in a row was 2018 and he has had a number of different injuries.

“I was concerned about taking Johnny and he couldn’t play games or make it through the tour meaning we had to call someone up – in such an important position we wanted to get it right and get that message right.

“We had three, four or five quality 10s to pick from, and I just wanted to send a message to the guys that we did pick that we have complete confidence and faith in them to do the job.”

“I wanted to say we trust you and we back you and we’re going to pick you from the start because you are so important to us in such a pivotal role, and for them to come in with that confidence and self-belief is important for me.”