Planet Rugby

The British & Irish Lions


Race on for Lions job

11th January 2012 06:51


Lions coach candidates

Warren Gatland: The next Lions coach?

Warren Gatland, Andy Robinson and Declan Kidney are the candidates for 2013 British and Irish Lions head coach role.

The Lions expect to make the appointment in April ahead of next year's ten-match three-Test tour to Australia.

The respective coaches of Wales, Scotland and Ireland will all effectively be on trial during the upcoming Six Nations championship but if none of them fit the bill, former coach and current Bath boss Ian McGeechan would be considered according to chief executive John Feehan.

McGeechan said at the end of the 2009 tour to South Africa that he would not seek to go on an eighth tour, suggesting rather that the new coaching team should be built around those who assisted him in the agonising 2-1 Test series defeat to the Springboks - Gatland, Shaun Edwards, Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree.

The successful candidate will have to step away from his current role before the 2013 Six Nations in order to maximise his preparation time but all three national coaches have indicated their desire to take on the biggest job in the northern hemisphere.

England's interim coach Stuart Lancaster will not be considered because he does not have the required experience, nor will whoever is appointed as the full-time coach.

"You don't have to be a genius to work out who the candidates are...we will keep an eye on them and see how well they do [in the Six Nations],'' said Feehan.

"All of those people are committed to wanting to do it, which is fantastic. It really comes down to performance now and who we feel will work best.

"Once we have selected the coach, we wouldn't want them involved in the 2013 Six Nations because we would like to take the pressure away from them in terms of results.

"We also want the coach to be able to get access to and contact with all the international players in the different squads. He is not going to be able to do that if he is an active coach.

"We have the support of the Six Nations to do that.''

Feehan emphasised that the job would not necessarily go to the coach that wins the Six Nations, stressing the decision would be based on relative performance and confirmed that Lions experience, and performances at the 2011 World Cup were also key factors, suggesting that New Zealand born Gatland ticked all the boxes.

"We won't rule a coach out if he hasn't [got Lions experience] but clearly the more experience, the better,'' said Feehan.

"The big problem with Lions tours is that you have to get it right from day one. There are no second chances so if a guy understands that and understands the ethos that needs to be built up with the players and the management, it helps.

"It is a definite bonus to them but a coach is more than just experience.

"There are one or two candidates who haven't been on a tour before and I have no doubt that they can bring their own insights and own intuition into the situation.''

The final decision will be made by the Lions board, which is made up of representatives from the four home unions - Tom Grace (Ireland), Gerald Davies (Wales), Andy Irvine (Scotland), John Spencer (England) - plus Feehan.

Feehan confirmed that a sqaud of up to 37 players would leave together after the Aviva Premiership and PRO 12 finals which will be played in the last week of May. The opening match of the tour is against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1.