Warren Gatland has said that he has known for a long time that Andy Farrell would potentially be unavailable for the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour.
The Lions head coach announced his coaching team earlier today, with Gregor Townsend, Steve Tandy, Robin McBryde and Neil Jenkins all being included.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was a likely candidate to be named in the Lions coaching team, having gone on the tours in 2013 and 2017, but will not travel to South Africa this summer.
Here are your coaches for the 2021 #CastleLionsSeries against South Africa 🦁
A blend of experience and fresh perspective 💪
Read more about the appointments below ⤵️#LionsRugby
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) April 13, 2021
Gatland was speaking about his choice of coaches at a press conference today and explained that he never expected Ireland head coach Farrell to be available for the tour.
“There’s no doubt that it’s been an eventful last week in terms of the fact that I’ve known for a long time that Andy Farrell potentially wasn’t going to be available to us,” Gatland explained.
“We have been talking for a number of weeks, so that wasn’t the decision last week, that he wasn’t available. With regard to that, I had spoken to Gregor a number of weeks ago about Steve Tandy as a possibility [as defence coach instead of Farrell].
“He was very complimentary about him, in terms of the role he has done with Scotland the last few years. Their defence has probably been the best in the last championship.”
Other absentees from the coaching team.
Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree and Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick were also expected to travel to South Africa, as both toured New Zealand with the Lions in 2017.
Gatland explained that Borthwick felt compelled to stay with Leicester after overseeing major improvements in the side in his first season in charge, while Rowntree wanted to spend time with his family.
“[Borthwick] just felt that was his day job and he needed to be there at the helm for Leicester. With Graham it was a different situation,” Gatland said.
“One of the things with me, my philosophy is that family always comes first and he had been trying to convince his family to come over from Leicester to Limerick for the last few years and they finally moved over. He’s trying to get them settled in with the challenges of Covid and stuff.”