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Gatland or Geech for Lions job?

19th October 2010 08:41

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Leeds v Bath Ian McGeechan

McGeechan: Set for shock Lions return?

The Lions are unlikely to appoint a home nations coach to lead the 2013 touring party and will only pursue Warren Gatland if he can agree a break clause with the Welsh Rugby Union.

Tour manager Andy Irvine has revealed that the Lions committee have major reservations about selecting a head coach who will also be involved in the Six Nations earlier that year.

However, talks are planned with the WRU over the possibility of securing Gatland on a temporary basis should he be identified as the right man.

Only yesterday Gatland agreed a new contract extension that will see him remain head coach until 2015 and the WRU's response is unlikely to be positive.

"It's not feasible for a head coach to run the national side in the Six Nations prior to the tour because it would be asking too much," said Irvine

"The national sides would probably baulk at that idea anyway because their national coach's eye would be taken off the ball.

"We'll be speaking to the WRU to see what level of commitment Warren must give to them as opposed to the Lions.

"It's theoretically possible to coach the Lions and be the head coach of a national side in the Six Nations immediately prior, but it's unlikely.

"If we weren't looking for a complete release of Warren by the WRU, then we'd certainly want a partial release."

The outstanding candidate, however, remains Ian McGeechan who could yet return for his eighth Lions tour.

The 63-year-old Scot announced South Africa last year would be his final hurrah with the elite of British and Irish rugby, but reports state he is ready to reverse his decision.

"Geech has to be a consideration. If he rules himself out I wouldn't want to put any pressure on him," said Irvine.

"Whoever coaches the Lions has to want to do it, but if Ian throws his hat into the ring we'd seriously have to look at it."

Irvine revealed the Lions could conceivably tour Argentina in 2021 and admitted the Pumas sprang a surprise when the side fought out a brutal 25-25 draw in Cardiff as a warm-up for the 2005 tour.

"The Lions have a role to play in trying to promote the game in the world," he said.

"If Argentina continue improving the way they are, it would be so disrespectful not to include them.

"The International Rugby Board would put pressure on the Lions to include Argentina and that's correct - they're a good side.

"Argentina surprised us in 2005. We thought we'd win comfortably but they gave us hell of a fright.

"I think that was the game that put Argentina on the map.

"Since then they've hardly looked back and now have huge credibility."