Ryan Grant’s rise from soldier to Lion

Ryan Grant played for Scotland in the Six Nations against France on March 16 in Saint-Denis near Paris, France. John Berry / Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Ryan Grant will complete the unlikely journey from Sharjah Wanderers to the British & Irish Lions having been summoned to Australia as an injury replacement for the summer tour.

The Scotland prop, who has been called up to cover for the injured Gethin Jenkins and Cian Healy, played for the Wanderers in 2006 when visiting family in the emirate.

His father, Billy, who now lives and works in Doha, played as a prop for the Sharjah club while he was employed in Port Khalid, while brother Lee was a flanker in the same team.

Although the Lions-bound prop was contracted to Border Reivers, one of Scotland’s professional clubs at the time, he turned out alongside his family in a less accustomed role in the back row.

“He was on holiday really when he played for us, but he was still the best No 8 I have ever played with – and he isn’t even a No 8,” said Gareth Williams, one of the few survivors remaining in the Wanderers team seven years on.

Grant, who went on tour with the Wanderers to Bahrain and also played matches against Dubai Hurricanes and Jebel Ali Dragons, had been unlucky to be overlooked for the initial Lions squad, according to many well-qualified observers.

The 6ft 1in prop received the belated call up when he was in Durban, where he had been due to play for Scotland against South Africa.

“Given Cian’s [Healy] injury we have decided to bring Ryan in,” Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach, was quoted as saying.

“He has played well in the RaboDirect Pro 12 this season and for Scotland in the RBS Six Nations, and we look forward to him and Alex Corbisiero [the England front-row forward, who was also summoned in place of the injured Gethin Jenkins] arriving tomorrow.”

Grant’s rise from army soldier to Sharjah Wanderer to Lion has been a rapid one.

He only made his international debut last year, age 26, and immediately caught the eye by way of his powerful scrummaging for Scotland in Australia.

Now he is back there again in circumstances he acknowledges he had not expected to come his way.

“It is pretty special,” Grant was quoted as saying on the scottishrugby.org website. “There has been a lot of ups and down over the past couple of days and weeks.

“It is the highest achievement a British rugby player can aspire to. It is the top of the game and to be in a bracket with great players that have come and gone for the Lions and to call myself a Lion is the greatest honour.”