Lions coach Gatland names his assistants for SA tour


thejapannews– British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has announced his coaching team for the 2021 tour to South Africa.

Gregor Townsend (Scotland), Robin McBryde (Leinster), Steve Tandy (Scotland) and Neil Jenkins (Wales) will assist Gatland for the tour, as well as the Test against Japan at Murrayfield on 26 June.

Townsend, currently Scotland’s head coach, will take charge of the Lions attack, while Tandy – part of Townsend’s Scottish coaching setup – will be responsible for the defence.

Former Wales assistant coach McBryde, now an assistant coach at PRO14 club Leinster, will take charge of the forwards and Welsh kicking coach Jenkins will look after the kickers. This will be Jenkins’ sixth Lions tour as both a player and coach.

“I am very pleased to have assembled such a high-quality coaching team,” Gatland told the Lions’ official website.

“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.”

Gatland continued: “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.

“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. 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.”

These announcements come after a report over the weekend stated that Gatland was unable to secure Ireland’s Andy Farrell, Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick and Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree for the tour.

All three coaches were part of Gatland’s staff for the Lions’ previous tour to New Zealand in 2017.

A report in The Times indicated that the trio withdrew shortly after receiving the team’s itinerary for the July-August tour.

The report stated that Farrell decided that Ireland’s tour of the Pacific Islands in July should take preference, Borthwick was concerned over missing the Premiership playoffs and Leicester’s pre-season and that Rowntree wanted to return to his family in England after spending the season in Ireland.