Warren Gatland insists the British and Irish Lions will benefit from “new voices and a fresh perspective” after naming three assistants who will be making debut tours as coaches.
Eddie Jones’ England have been overlooked entirely and there are no Englishmen present at all after Andy Farrell, Steve Borthwick and Graham Rowntree were unable to take part in the event.
Scotland boss Gregor Townsend will lead the attack in South Africa this summer and his international colleague Steve Tandy will oversee the defence, both of them profiting from a solid Six Nations notable for wins over England and France.
Completing the trio of debutants is the appointment of Leinster’s Robin McBryde to take charge of the forwards, while Neil Jenkins of Wales returns for his fourth tour as kicking coach.
High-quality coaching team
“I am very pleased to have assembled such a high-quality coaching team,” Gatland said. “It’s a really strong group and I’m excited to see what we can achieve together – I think we’ll all complement each other well in South Africa.
“A Lions tour is a unique challenge, so it’s important to have some continuity in the coaching group.
“Neil understands the exceptional demands that only a Lions tour can present and we will benefit from his knowledge and experience.
“But it’s also important to have new voices and a fresh perspective. Gregor is doing an excellent job in charge of Scotland and is an outstanding coach. He also understands the challenges of touring South Africa as a player and what it takes to win there, so I am extremely happy he will be part of the set-up.
“Steve has made Scotland’s defence one of the most organised in world rugby – something we saw throughout the recent Six Nations. He’s clearly an intelligent coach and someone I am very much looking forward to working with.
“Obviously Robin is someone who I know very well from our time together in Wales. He is an impressive and experienced coach who continues to have success with Leinster. I think he’ll be well suited to the Lions environment and I am sure he will do an excellent job with the forwards.
“As the tour approaches we may look to bring in some extra resource, but this will be the core group for the time being.”
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The Lions have committed to touring South Africa despite the coronavirus pandemic, although the original itinerary consisting of eight fixtures and a warm-up Test against Japan at Murrayfield is under revision.
It is likely the that Gatland’s squad will be based in two locations only – in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
“Touring South Africa is always a huge challenge and clearly when the squad assembles in June to begin our preparations everything is going to look and feel a bit different to previous tours,” Gatland said.
“But having spoken to the coaches individually over the past few days we’re absolutely determined to make it an enjoyable, memorable and ultimately successful experience for everyone involved.”
Of the four assistants, only Townsend is working as a head coach of one of the home unions and he joins with a strong Lions pedigree after playing an important role in the 1997 series victory over the Springboks at fly-half.
“To be involved as a player and now as a coach is truly humbling. The Springboks are a formidable opponent on home turf, but looking at the talent in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it is a hugely exciting opportunity for us to do something special,” Townsend said.