The Lions will select their coach this summer.
Despite Warren Gatland playing down the fact that he is favourite to lead the Lions to New Zealand in the summer of 2017, unless Wales are embarrassed during the Six Nations, he remains the most likely candidate to do so.
A fact made more apparent when Joe Schmidt admitted that his contract with Ireland precluded him from doing so. Therefore it will not come as a massive surprise when Gatland is handed the job, despite Stuart Lancaster seemingly being in contention.
Nevertheless, it remains unclear as to who will assist Gatland next year.
Defence Coach: Shaun Edwards
Arguably the most important porfolio within modern rugby, quality defence coaches are highly sought after throughout the rugby world.
While Paul Gustard has revelled in the role for Saracens during the last number of seasons, Shaun Edwards remains the northern hemisphere’s premier defence guru.
The fact that he appeared to be courted by Ireland and England prior to extending his contract with Wales illustrates this.
Although Gatland left him at home for the previous tour, if the Lions are to have any chance, Edwards will have to be given the job.
Backs Coach: Gregor Townsend
Although many will argue otherwise, the manner in which his Glasgow team approach the game must make him a candidate for the role.
Without a dominant pack, Townsend’s side rely on pace, movement and above all else, the ability to offload.
All attributes associated with the All Blacks, and facets that will allow the Lions fight fire with fire.
However, as Townsend’s tactical approach differs radically from that of Gatland, he maybe overlooked. Nevertheless he bring something to the table that many of his counterparts lack.
Scrum Coach: Greg Feek
Under the guidance of Greg Feek, the scrums of both Leinster and Ireland have improved immeasurably.
Feek’s achievements are put into context when you consider that Ireland’s front row would not be regarded as an elite level scrummaging unit.
Nevertheless under Feek, Leinster have won a European Cup and Ireland back to back Six Nations Championships.
As a 10 times capped All Black prop and former Hurricanes forwards coach, Feek also has an understanding of New Zealand’s approach to scrummaging. Something that could prove invaluable.
Forwards Coach: Alex Sanderson
Although he missed out on the position with England, Sanderson’s stock has risen considerably in recent seasons.
While he might not have international or head coach experience, under Sanderson, Saracens’ pack has come to dominate the Premiership and is arguably the only forward unit with the ability to challenge Toulon.
Indeed, given that a large number of Saracens forwards are likely to be candidates for Lions selection, a degree of continuity in the area would be welcome.
Technical Coach: Joe Schmidt
Despite being precluded from leading the Lions, there is nothing stopping Schmidt from being called up as an assistant.
Schmidt’s attention to detail and the specific demands he places on players, are attributes that cannot be ignored. While Gatland will impose the wider strategic approach, Schmidt is the perfect candidate to deal with the minute details that cannot be overlooked.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena