Best sparks Lions race row

Former England coach Dick Best has caused a race row after remarks about discarded fullback Delon Armitage.

Armitage, who is of Caribbean descent, was thought to be in line for the British & Irish Lions squad but Ian McGeechan opted for players such as Irishman Keith Earls.

When Best was asked by Sky Sports who would be in his Lions’ XV in the build-up to the squad announcement, he said he would pick Armitage. The reason being: ‘You’ve always got to have a coloured boy in the team,’ said Best.

Sky immediatey apologised and said Best thought he was off air.

Piara Powar, the director of Kick It Out, an organisation which campaigns against racism in sport, said pundits such as Best should not infer that Lions selection could have been based on race.

‘Racial stereotyping affects us all,’ said Powar, ‘and for many of us it seems to affect the pattern of our lives from the day we are born until the day we die.

‘It may well be that Dick Best said what he said as an appreciation of what black players can bring to the game of rugby union.

‘But we should firstly knock down the idea that there is some form of quota system in place for picking players, and secondly refute the idea that one ethnic group is inherently better at sport than any other.

‘Ultimately these are dangerous profiles to paint and certainly not to be sniggered over. High-profile commentators such as Mr Best should not be inferring that such factors have an influence on the decision-making of elite class coaches such as British Lions coach Ian McGeechan.’