Who will Warren Gatland pick on his Lions coaching team?
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Last Updated: 21/07/20 3:46pm
Will Greenwood looks at the challenges facing Warren Gatland as he starts to pick his coaching team for the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
South Africa will be a massive battle for the Lions in 2021 and getting the wider coaching team right will be vital if they want to be victorious.
Coaches' contracts mean that Gatland will probably not have the opportunity to select all the coaches he took to Australia in 2013 or New Zealand in 2017. Plus those he may want to take, may not be available.
"It will be a fascination thing for Gatland to look at. It is the contracts that need to be unwound, it's the length of time that the best coaches need off - the best coaches are in employment with various unions," explained Greenwood.
"The reality with Gatland is that he starts with a group and then tweaks it for each consecrations tour - just changed a voice here and there.
"The classic example is Shaun Edwards was his defence coach and that switched to Andy Farrell. The ever-presents have been great Lions men - like Neil Jenkins from the kicking side. Obviously Rob Howley has been with him on previous tours - that may be difficult but not impossible as I know Rob is now allowed to operate within the game of rugby.
"However that may open up a slot for someone like a Gregor Townsend. He was a spectacular Lion in 1997 so you have the South African connection and you have the quality of his coaching. But contractually he is in charge of Scotland and could he get the six or nine months off?
"He is someone that you would like to see in the not too distant future with a Lions badge on his lapel again."
Greenwood believes that another option for Gatland is Stuart Lancaster, who has excelled at Leinster and his ability to coach both attack and defence would be a a very good choice.
"Someone who is a great friend of mine and who has risen from the ashes is Stuart Lancaster. Often you are a specific coach but he does both sides of the ball at Leinster in terms of attack and defence.
"If Gatland wants to get say Farrell released from Ireland to go as his defence coach, then Stuart Lancaster could do attack. Then sort of vice versa if Gregor Townsend comes in to do the attack, then Stuart Lancaster could drop in to do the defence."
Greenwood believes that a link to the past is important for the Lions and believes that having as strong understanding of what the Lions jersey means can help the team unite quicker.
"Might he take a Sam Warburton? He is very new in his coaching career but Wales are using him as a sort of ruck and contact area coach, he is a real option," added Greenwood.
"I think you want to have one eye on the future, but can you also have a link to the past? That is why coaches like Graham Rowntree and Rob Howley have been so good because they have worn that jersey and they understand what it means to be a Lion both on and off the field."