Gatland to name Lions coaches as All Blacks 'shiver'
Strong performances in the autumn internationals lift hopes that the Lions will have a chance against New Zealand next year
Lions coach Warren Gatland will unveil his coaching line-up for next year's tour of New Zealand this week in the hope that the British and Irish side will give the All Blacks a run for their money. The Lions have been given fresh impetus by the performances of England and Ireland in the autumn internationals.
Scotland's coach-in-waiting Gregor Townsend has reportedly turned down the opportunity to work with the Lions, as has Ireland's Joe Schmidt. But writing in the Mail on Sunday Will Kelleher says that Rob Howley, Andy Farrell and Steve Borthwick will be named as Gatland's backroom staff for the tour.
Others could join them, says Wales Online. "Gatland has been considering whether to get the blessing of the Lions hierarchy to take extra coaches on the gruelling ten-match tour," it says.
Stuart Barnes of Sky Sports says Gatland should take a scrum coach, a kicking coach and a strategic analyst. Mike Catt and Neil Jenkins are possibly in contention for the second of those three roles.
Whoever Gatland chooses, the past four weeks will have given him renewed confidence that the All Blacks can be beaten.
And despite a "criminal" tour schedule, with fearsome non-Test opposition and little rest, the Lions will be up for it.
"Indeed, if you get the right people in charge... and the right characters on the field, they will actually draw inspiration from the magnitude of the task, lifted rather than daunted by the odds.
"The Lions should be fired up by the difficulties. And, given the evidence of the past five weeks and the manner of the performances round the home nations there is every reason to expect that they will be."
Indeed the Lions 2017 tour of New Zealand, unlike their catastrophic visit in 2005, could turn out to be "well timed", says Owen Slot of The Times.
"The overriding impression that the autumn internationals left behind was how competitive it will be to get in the squad, let alone the match-day 23 or the starting XV," he says.
And the question of the captaincy proves the point. "The problems in picking a named leader are indicative of a growing strength across the home unions," he says. "No one stands out as a standout captain because there are that many quality candidates to stand out from."