2013 British & Irish Lions Tour
Lions coach to be appointed after Six Nations
November 28, 2011
Wales coach Warren Gatland is one of the favourites to take charge of the Lions for their tour to Australia in 2013 © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions manager Andy Irvine has revealed that the head coach for the eagerly-anticipated tour to Australia in 2013 will be named after next year's Six Nations.
Irvine, speaking at the confirmation of the Lions' 10-match tour schedule, said the Lions hoped to make an announcement in April/May next year and had not ruled out appointing a foreign coach.
"We could go worldwide but ideally we would like an association with the Lions," said Irvine who insists the head coach role will require a full time commitment from their appointment through to the tour that kicks off with a one-off game against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1. As a result, any coach currently working with a Test side will require a release from their duties with Wales' Kiwi-born coach Warren Gatland the only likely contender known to have a sabbatical built into his contract.
However, Irvine does not foresee any problems in securing the services of either Gatland or Scotland coach Andy Robinson or his Irish counterpart Declan Kidney should they be chosen for the role. England are currently seeking a coach following Martin Johnson's decision to step down following the Rugby World Cup. "My understanding is that they would all be available," added Irvine, "which is great news for us because it ensures maximum interest....What I have been told is that all three will be available if required."
Irvine stressed the need for a hands-on approach from the moment of their appointment - ruling out a dual role during the 2013 Six Nations. "The head coach will have to be free from international duties in the Six Nations that year in order to look at players and matches, otherwise you could not do the job properly...100% of their time must be dedicated to the Lions' tour."
Sir Ian McGeechan led the Lions to South Africa two and a half years ago, his seventh tour as player or coach, and remains an option but would have to secure a release from his current post at Premiership side Bath by the start of the 2012-13 season. "Ian McGeechan has not ruled himself out entirely. He did indicate that 2009 would be his last tour, but he has said nothing definitive and he has to be an option," said Irvine. "It is such a highly-prized job that we will not be short of candidates. To play for the Lions is the ultimate, and to coach the Lions is pretty close to that.
Gatland, who served under McGeechan on the Lions tour to South Africa in 2009, looms as a leading candidate with Irvine putting significant value on continuity. "I think continuity is an important thing," he said. "It is going to be a very tight schedule and it will certainly help if you have been involved before, but if I am honest there is also a view that we should spread the Lions' duties around a little. There is that dilemma, but I think we have got to look for an element of continuity."
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.