The Rugby Paper

Lions leave space for Farrell to join the tour

- ■ By ADAM HATHAWAY

WARREN Gatland has left the door open for Ireland head coach Andy Farrell to join the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa this summer if his internatio­nal commitment­s allow.

Lions’ boss Gatland was desperate for Farrell to travel after working with him on the trips to Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017 when the Englishman helped beat the Wallabies and draw with the All Blacks.

But Farrell took over from Joe Schmidt in Ireland’s top job after the last World Cup and felt he would be needed on Ireland’s mooted summer tour to the Pacific Islands.

Plans for that have not been finalised which could leave Farrell free to take up a Lions post close to the squad travelling.

He would join Gregor Townsend, Neil Jenkins, Steve Tandy and Robin

McBryde who were named as assistants to Gatland last Tuesday and the New Zealander is holding out hope Farrell could be on the plane.

“It’s possible, it’s why we’ve left one of the spots open,” Gatland said. “I would have loved Andy to come.

“Whoever it is, we feel like we need someone else to come in, at the start of the tour, during the tour or before the Test matches take place.

“What’s happening with those games on tour is going to be finalised this month so it’s just having that flexibilit­y to potentiall­y bring someone else in later on.

“I haven’t been specific about a role, a position or what they’d do but it’s something I want to have the possibilit­y of being able to do if we feel there’s a need for it.

“I was leaving it as long as I could and understood that if Ireland were touring there was a good chance he wasn’t going to be available.”

Gatland, who joked Sam Warburton was earning too much in the media to join as an assistant, is also hoping to get the entire squad and staff vaccinated against Covid.

And the head coach said the tourists were working on getting Irish players jabbed in Britain if needs be but did not want to be accused of queue jumping.

He added: “That would be the plan. We’re working towards that if we can. We know there are challenges. We’ve got to be conscious not to be seen getting special treatment but I think these are special times and circumstan­ces and I’d like to think people believe

NEW British & Irish Lions forwards coach Robin McBryde says his team can use the hurt of Wales’ and England’s 2019 World Cup defeats by South Africa as motivation against the Springboks.

McBryde will assist head coach Warren Gatland on what will be a tour like no other this summer with the pair used to working together after 11 trophy-laden years with Wales.

Gatland and McBryde’s penultimat­e game with Wales was the World Cup semi-final loss to South Africa who then went on to hammer England to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup.

“South Africa haven’t played since then because of Covid-19. The World Cup was the last time the England boys faced them too,” McBryde, now with Leinster, told The Rugby Paper.

“You’re going to carry that hurt and use those experience­s. I think it’ll still be fresh in the memory and be interestin­g.

“There will be a certain amount of retributio­n and I think it will still be burning inside some people.

“South Africa’s threat is mauling, their set-piece

obviously, and they drove well against us in the World Cup semi-final. They have physicalit­y, but also good variety to their game as they showed in the final.

“The scrum played a dominant part there. The way they managed their squad at that World Cup has been well mentioned in terms of having six forwards and they’ve got real strength in depth.

“It’s going to be a big challenge. It’s something I’m really looking forward to because you want to test yourself against the best pack in world rugby. They’re world champions.”

McBryde was called up by Gatland as forwards coach after Leicester supremo Steve Borthwick withdrew from the role due to his Tigers commitment­s.

It will be his first Lions tour as a coach after being

called up to the 2001 trip to Australia as a player.

McBryde’s fellow Welshmen Steve Tandy and Neil Jenkins, plus Scotland boss Gregor Townsend, will also head to the southern hemisphere.

McBryde remains committed to Leinster until the end of the season with a Heineken Champions Cup semi-final with La Rochelle to come.

He believes that while the Lions will undoubtedl­y have to front up to South Africa’s power, just matching their physicalit­y won’t be enough for a series victory.

“I think it’s about footwork, being smart, and having variety in attack,” said the former hooker.

“Of course, it’s about meeting them head-on on occasions, but we can do that on our terms. It’s about being intelligen­t. We can’t just go into their physicalit­y and expect to

dominate. You’re going to need a certain amount of size, but it’s not going to rule out players who are explosive and a bit different.

“What has been highlighte­d is the need for good people on the tour. Warren has been on many tours, so has Neil. They’re speaking from experience and you need people who are 100 per cent behind the team irrespecti­ve of whether they’re selected.

“With Covid-19, we’re going to be spending a lot of time in close proximity in our own little bubble. As well as the physical and performanc­e side of things, you need good people around you and that’s another thing we will have to consider. We can’t under-estimate the value of that.

“There are a lot of things to throw in the mix with selection and we need to get the blend right.”

 ??  ?? Wanted: Andy Farrell
Wanted: Andy Farrell
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