Lions Origins: The story of Ali Price

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Ali Price

One of the standout players on the 2021 Tour, Ali Price was Warren Gatland’s go-to Test scrum-half as his meteoric rise continued to confound expectations.

Many had expected the more experienced Conor Murray to be the starting No.9 before the Tour but Scotland and Glasgow Warriors half-back Price hardly put a foot wrong in the famous red jersey.

And he continued to impress after returning from South Africa, producing a Player of the Match display on the occasion of his 50th Scotland cap in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations as his side beat Italy 33-22.

British & Irish Lion #843 ran the show from start to finish, playing a role in four of Scotland’s five tries in Rome as his quick-thinking and superb reading of the game caused the hosts endless problems.

His support play was crucial in setting up Sam Johnson’s opening try, before his interception close to Scotland’s own line three minutes later led to a Chris Harris score.

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Price’s break in the second half also set up fellow 2021 tourist Stuart Hogg’s try – and the Scotland captain was quick to pay tribute to his teammate on his 50th cap.

“I thought Ali was absolutely outstanding for the whole time he was on the field,” said Hogg. “He was a livewire and kept the carrot in front of the donkey in terms of his kicking game.

“He asked a lot of questions of the Italian defence with his running game as well. For him to win his 50th cap, I’m incredibly proud of him and to put in a performance like that was absolutely tremendous.”

ROAD TO THE RED JERSEY

Price played in all three Tests for the Lions in South Africa, having established himself as one of the form scrum-halves in the world during Scotland’s 2021 Championship campaign.

But his road to wearing the famous red jersey started long before that.

Born in King’s Lynn, Nortfolk, Price’s rugby education started at West Norfolk RFC where he took his first steps in the game after being taken to a minis session.

“Dad took me to West Norfolk rugby club when I was six or seven to try it and I loved it,” said Price, who qualified to play for Scotland through his Scottish mother.

“Mark Reavell and Paddy Dixon coached my team from under-6/7 level through to under-16s. They were with me through all those years and I can’t thank them enough.”

Ali Price acknowledges the fans

Price went on to join Bedford Academy in his last year at 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, having impressed for Scotland’s Under-20s, Price signed his first professional deal 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.

While initially deputy to then Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw, he eventually usurped the 2017 tourist in the pecking order and started his country’s opening 2019 World Cup game.

Injury would ultimately cut short his World Cup campaign but Price returned even stronger as he became the main man under Townsend over the course of the 2020 and 2021 Championships.

THE PRICE IS RIGHT

His sensational form for Scotland was rewarded by Gatland, who selected him as one of his three scrum-halves in the 37-man Lions squad for the 2021 Tour of South Africa.

And against many expectations, Price was handed the No.9 jersey for the first Test ahead of Conor Murray after impressing in the 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 admitted will live long in his memory.

“I haven’t been that nervous before a game for – well, forever. I knew it was the biggest game of my career,” said Price when reflecting on the build-up to the first Test.

“Until I got my first pass in or had my first ​involvement, I was pretty nervous but then I got myself into the game and was obviously delighted with the result and how it ended up.

Ali Price

“It was an incredibly special day and to get into a Lions squad is special but to be a Test Lion is sort of the cherry on top and it was a special day for myself and my family back home.”

Price went on to play 23 minutes from the bench in the 27-9 second Test defeat before returning to the starting line-up for the decider, which the Springboks won 19-16.

Although the Tour did not end with a series success, Price – who is nicknamed ‘Ah-ha-li Price’ by his teammates in reference to Norfolk comedy icon Alan Partridge – still gained a lot from the experience.

“I learned a hell of a lot in the summer,” he said after the Tour. “And being involved in the three Test matches at the end against the world champs – they’re tough games.

“You have to find different ways of playing, and it’s good to pick other guys’ brains from other nations and hear what they’ve got to say. I just want to pick up where I left off in the summer.”

Price has certainly managed to do just that, as shown by his display on his 50th cap.

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