With the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour confirmed to be going ahead next summer, attention now shifts to the players who will be making up the squad that travels to take on the world champions.
This also applies to the coaches. Of course, Warren Gatland will lead the Lions as head coach for the third consecutive time but who will he choose to form his overall coaching staff?
Chooses a coaching ticket can be difficult as many of those in contention are already contracted to clubs and unions. Therefore, negotiations will need to take place in order to convince those in charge to allow their ideal target to be released for a considerable amount of time.
Gatland’s coaching ticket in 2017, where the Lions secured a series draw against the All Blacks, consisted of Rob Howley as attack coach, Andy Farrell as defence coach, Neil Jenkins as kicking coach, Steve Borthwick as forwards coach and Graham Rowntree as scrum coach.
Many of these coaches have moved on to different jobs in the interim, including Andy Farrell who is now head coach of Ireland, Steve Borthwick who is now head coach of the Leicester Tigers and Graham Rowntree who is forwards coach of Munster.
Rob Howley currently doesn’t hold a position after serving his ban, which included any involvement in rugby, for breaching gambling regulations.
Sky Sports pundit Will Greenwood was speaking on his podcast where he outlined some of the options Gatland has available to him when deciding upon his coaching ticket for 2021.
“It will be a fascination thing for Gatland to look at. It is the contracts that need to be unwound, it’s the length of time that the best coaches need off – the best coaches are in employment with various unions,” Greenwood began.
“The reality with Gatland is that he starts with a group and then tweaks it for each consecrations tour – just changed a voice here and there.
“The classic example is Shaun Edwards was his defence coach and that switched to Andy Farrell. The ever-presents have been great Lions men – like Neil Jenkins from the kicking side. Obviously Rob Howley has been with him on previous tours – that may be difficult but not impossible as I know Rob is now allowed to operate within the game of rugby.
“However that may open up a slot for someone like a Gregor Townsend. He was a spectacular Lion in 1997 so you have the South African connection and you have the quality of his coaching. But contractually he is in charge of Scotland and could he get the six or nine months off?
“He is someone that you would like to see in the not too distant future with a Lions badge on his lapel again.”
Greenwood also spoke about the possibility of Stuart Lancaster who could coach either the attack or defensive side of the game after his superb work with Leinster over the last number of years.
“Someone who is a great friend of mine and who has risen from the ashes is Stuart Lancaster. Often you are a specific coach but he does both sides of the ball at Leinster in terms of attack and defence.
“If Gatland wants to get say Farrell released from Ireland to go as his defence coach, then Stuart Lancaster could do attack. Then sort of vice versa if Gregor Townsend comes in to do the attack, then Stuart Lancaster could drop in to do the defence.”
Who do you think Gatland should select for his coaching ticket?