British and Irish Lions
March 15, 2022 1:53 p.m.
Reading time: 5 minutes
One of the standout players of the 2021 Tour, Ali Price, has recalled why he was Warren Gatland’s test scrum-half in Scotland’s win over Italy on Saturday.
The Glasgow Warriors No.9 was named Player of the Match as Gregor Townsend’s side found their way back to winning ways in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations with a 33-22 victory.
British & Irish Lion #843 ran the show from start to finish, playing a part in four of Scotland’s five tries in Rome as his quick thinking and superb reading of the game caused endless problems for the hosts.
His supporting play was crucial in setting up Sam Johnson’s opening try, before his interception near Scotland’s own line three minutes later led to a Chris Harris score.
Price’s second-half break also set up fellow tourist Stuart Hogg’s 2021 try – and the Scotland captain was quick to pay tribute to his team-mate on his 50th cap.
“I thought Ali was absolutely outstanding the whole time he was on the court,” Hogg said. “He was a livewire and kept the carrot before the donkey in terms of his kicking game.
“He also posed a lot of questions to the Italian defense with his running game. That he won his 50th cap, I’m incredibly proud of him and to achieve a performance like that was absolutely great.
ROUTE OF THE RED JERSEY
Price played in all three Tests for the Lions in South Africa, having established himself as one of the best scrum-halves in the world during Scotland’s 2021 Championship campaign.
But his road to wearing the famous red jersey began long before that.
Born in King’s Lynn, Nortfolk, Price’s rugby education began at West Norfolk RFC where he took his first steps into the game after being taken to a mini-session.
“Dad took me to West Norfolk Rugby Club when I was six or seven to try it out and I loved it,” said Price, who qualified to play for Scotland through the intermediary of his Scottish mother.
“Mark Reavell and Paddy Dixon coached my team from Under 6/7 to Under 16 level. They have been with me for all these years and I cannot thank them enough.
Price then joined Bedford Academy in his final year at the school, spending three years there before becoming a senior player for a year and joining Glasgow in 2013.
Joining the Warriors as part of their elite development programme, after impressing Scotland’s Under-20s, Price signed his first professional contract with Glasgow in 2015.
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After enjoying spells with Stirling County and Ayr, Price established himself as a Warriors regular in the 2016/17 season and made his Scotland debut against Georgia in November 2016.
Initially assistant to then Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw, he eventually usurped the 2017 tourist in the pecking order and started his country’s 2019 World Cup opener.
Injuries would eventually cut short his World Cup campaign, but Price came back even stronger as he became the main man under Townsend during the 2020 and 2021 Championships.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
His sensational form for Scotland was rewarded by Gatland, who selected him as one of their three scrum-halfs in the 37 Lions squad for the 2021 Tour of South Africa.
And against many expectations, Price was handed the No.9 shirt for the first Test ahead of Conor Murray after impressing in warm-up matches – scoring a try against Sigma Lions.
The 28-year-old played 65 minutes of the first Test as the Lions opened the series with a 22-17 win in Cape Town – a special moment he says will live long in his memory.
“I haven’t been this nervous before a game since – well, forever. I knew it was the biggest game of my career,” Price said as he reflected on the build-up to the first Test.
“Until I got my first assist or my first involvement I was quite nervous but then I got into the game and was obviously delighted with the result and how it ended .
“It was an incredibly special day and coming into a Lions team is special, but being a Test Lion is kind of the icing on the cake and it was a special day for me and my family back home.”
Price continued to play 23 minutes from the bench in the 27-9 second loss before returning to the starting lineup for the decider, which the Springboks won 19-16.
Although the Tour did not end in series success, Price still benefited greatly from the experience.
“I learned a lot this summer,” he said after the Tour. “And to be involved in the three test matches at the end against the world champions – those are tough matches.
“You have to find different ways to play, and it’s good to tap into the brains of other guys from other nations and hear what they have to say. I just want to pick up where I left off this summer.
Price has certainly managed to do just that, as shown by his display on his 50th cap.
And while he may have been nicknamed ‘Ah-ha-li Price’ by his teammates in reference to Norfolk comedy icon Alan Partridge, the scrum-half was definitely the last laugh against Italy.