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Wednesday Aug 11, 2021

Gatland replacement shortlist grows for Lions 2025 coach

The recent British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa may well have been Warren Gatland’s last as head coach, but just who could replace the talisman Kiwi for the 2025 tour to Australia?

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Gatland hasn’t made any comments to suggest he won’t put his name into the ring for 2025, but then again, he hasn’t suggested anything. Perhaps leaving the dust to settle on one of the most demanding and unusual tours in living memory this year.

His record stands rather impressively at one tour win, one drawn series and one defeat. The Lions, by its very nature, tends to be one where the odds of success start low, and it’s testament to Gatland and his staff that they have achieved what they have.

But change is often needed in rugby when things run their course. Much talk in the aftermath of the third and final Test has circulated around who should be taking charge of the next tour, with several interesting names being bandied about.

Former England internationals Stuart Barnes and Will Greenwood are just some to give their opinions on who should lead the Lions, while other options range from home-grown coaches to southern hemisphere experts.

Promotion for Townsend or bring in Razor?

Having turned down the Lions to focus on his first full season as Scotland coach in 2017, Gregor Townsend joined Gatland’s coaching staff this year as attack coach. While the Lions’ game plan failed to trouble the Springboks in the test series, the inclusion of high-tempo players like Finn Russell and Ali Price have Townsend’s name all over it. And Greenwood likes that prospect against the Wallabies.

Therefore, Townsend could be able to implement more of his tactical influence as head coach, despite Scotland’s form being patchy in the Six Nations and World Cup. What may be key to Townsend getting the gig, is how Scotland perform in the next three years.

Barnes on the other hand, wants the next big thing in coaching, Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson. Writing in The Times, Barnes says he would “sign Robertson today” given the Crusaders’ coach’s incredible strike rate in Super Rugby, Super Rugby Aotearoa and the Under 20 World Championship with New Zealand.

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Certainly, Robertson would be a major asset to the Lions in terms of attacking ability and structure, while a potential teaming up with former Crusaders assistant – and current La Rochelle head coach – Ronan O’Gara is a mouth-watering prospect. The chances of that happening in reality are slim, as Robertson has been touted to succeed Ian Foster as All Blacks coach after the 2023 World Cup. If the pair can be signed before 2023, however…

Other options

In a recent article on RugbyPass, a shortlist was created which could bring a few more left-field names into the equation. Of course, it’s early days but like choosing a squad, there are some combinations which might suit the unique nature of a touring squad nicely.

Former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is on the list, although it’s unclear whether the Kiwi – who is now working with World Rugby – would be willing to put himself back into the mix on the world stage. Then there’s his successor at Ireland, Andy Farrell, while Wales and England coaches Wayne Pivac and Eddie Jones are also logical choices.

Less obvious choices might come via former England boss – and current Leinster coach – Stuart Lancaster, while Pat Lam is another who could be considered. Both are renowned for being good in man management, with Lam successfully building a winning Barbarians side in the summer of 2018. Lancaster has blended in very well at Leinster, while Lam took Connacht to a Pro14 title and Bristol to the top of the Premiership in England.

Exeter coach Rob Baxter is equally a coach in the ascendency and must surely be in the mix to succeed Jones in the England set-up. Should this happen, consider his name near the top of the Lions considerations.

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Who would you pick to be the next coach of the Lions?

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