He's the elite rugby star you’ve probably never heard of, but Lachlan Coote is about to achieve what no Scotsman has managed to do in nearly two decades…be picked for a Lions team.

Not since Tom Smith in 2001 has a touring test kicked off with the Saltire represented on the field.

But, against the odds, it’s the 13-a-side code that is bucking the trend.

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When Great Britain’s rugby league Lions take on Tonga in Waikato, New Zealand, this morning, the first name on the team sheet is expected to be Coote’s.

League’s seed has always fallen on stony ground north of the border and the sport has made little headway even though it offers the sort of relentless biff, swagger and occasional simmering on-field violence that has thrilled derby-day football crowds for a century and made folk heroes of the likes of Duncan Ferguson, Dave Mackay and Scott Brown.

So with little in the way of a traditional presence to lean on, it will come as little surprise then that this Lion Rampant comes with a marked Sydney accent and a Glaswegian gran.

Coote was a world and Australian club champion with North Queensland Cowboys and he’s just picked up a Super League title with St Helens.

He is a one of a whole generation of classy Aussie full-backs to never wear the green-and-gold because of the longevity of living League legend Billy Slater.

But to accuse him of being a Mock Jock or Plastic Pom is to miss the point.

Patriotism burns with different flames and for 29-year-old Coote, moving to the UK, playing for Scotland and now Great Britain is about filling in the gaps in his own family’s remarkable back-story and expressing a heritage he feels deep within.

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Indeed, there may be people reading this article now who have no idea that they are long-lost cousins and his roots are clearly an uncomfortable topic of conversation.

Speaking ahead of today’s match, Coote’s not even sure that his gran knows he is proudly pulling on the shirt of her homeland.

He revealed: “All I know is she was born in Glasgow, left when she was 17 on a boat and remained in Queensland since then.

“I don’t have much to do with Grandma. She’s part of a religion that don’t believe in technology so they don’t have a TV in the house and they don’t listen to radio either.

“We met a little bit. We used to do trips to Queensland but since we got kicked out of the religion we weren’t allowed to have much to do with them so that’s why I don’t know much of the history.

“I always knew she was from Scotland but that’s as far as it went, but that was the whole reasoning behind putting my hand up for the Scotland team because I wanted to know a bit about my heritage and be a part of what she was brought up with.”

Coote – along with wife Laura and their children Bailey, 5, and Mia, 1 - swapped hemispheres for Lancashire a year ago to join Saints where he’s been a prolific goalkicker and influential pivot, joining the line to devastating effect.

And he’s become an instant fans’ favourite in the town with his own terrace song based on the Oasis song, She’s Electric.

But moving to England afforded him the chance to head further north too.

He said: “We had New Year in Edinburgh and stayed there for a week. We love it up there.

“I tried to do a bit of family tree research when I was on tour with the Scotland team as we had a week in Edinburgh, but I couldn’t get far. The name is McDonald. I looked for our tartan too.”

Coote made his Scotland debut in 2016, playing in all three tests in a Four Nations tournament which included Australia and England.

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The 18-18 draw against a bedraggled New Zealand side visibly homesick in sideways rain on a filthy night in Cumbria remains the nation’s best ever result – and Coote’s fondest memory of wearing the thistle.

“It was freezing cold, windy. New Zealand didn’t really want to be there,” he laughs. “They thought it was going to be an easy game. It was like we won the Four Nations the way we carried on in the sheds after. It was a great feeling.

“It is a good thing having a Scottish member in the Great Britain side. I’m flying the flag for the Scots and hopefully I can do them proud.”

Coote is 6/1 third favourite with McBookie.com to top the Lions’ try charts on their four-test tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, but with a trusty boot too, he’s 2/1 to be highest point-scorer.

McBookie spokesman Paul Petrie said: “Lachlan Coote is our man from down there up here and now back down there again.

“It’s confusing, but when you have one of the best players in the world insisting he’s Scottish, I think we should just all sit back and enjoy the spectacle. Best of luck to Lachlan and the Lions.”

The irony is that Coote’s success means Scotland will go into their own World Cup 2021 qualifier against Serbia at Lochinch, Glasgow, this afternoon short of their star turn though still 1/5 red-hot favourites.

Scotland has only had two previous native-born RL Lions tourists: Ayrshire-born prop Hugh Waddell was part of the 1988 trip to Australia while cross-code international Alan Tait followed in 1990 to PNG and NZ.

Tait then returned to union and scored a famous try in the British & Irish Lions’ First Test victory in South Africa in 1997.

No Scots played in the tests on the last RU tour in 2017 while Richie Gray had a lone sub appearance in 2013 in Australia.