British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland names assistants for New Zealand tour
Andy Farrell, Steve Borthwick and Rob Howley take specialist roles for daunting battle with world champions
Andy Farrell, Steve Borthwick and Rob Howley will be Warren Gatland’s specialist coaches for the daunting British & Irish Lions tour of world champions New Zealand, it was announced on Wednesday.
All three were widely touted to be named, especially after Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and future Scotland national handler Gregor Townsend said they wished not to be considered.
Gatland, who has been replaced on a temporary basis by Howley as Wales coach while he prepares for the tour, said the trio were his “core coaching team” though he might add one more to the roster.
“I am excited about this coaching team,” said Gatland, who guided the Lions to a series win over Australia in 2013.
“I said from the outset it was important to have continuity because we need to hit the ground running, given the limited preparation time.
“In Rob and Andy, we have guys who understand the Lions concept, have worked together and know how to coach a winning Lions team.
“It’s also important to have some new input. Steve has done a great job in shaping the England pack and played a major role in their recent run of success, so I am looking forward to working with him,” added the 53-year-old New Zealander, whose selection of Howley sees Robin McBryde put in charge of Wales for their tour of the Pacific islands next year.
Ireland defence strategist Farrell, 41, filled that role on the Australia tour and has boosted his reputation since joining the Irish after this year’s Six Nations. Ireland have beaten all three of the southern hemisphere heavyweights – the first team from the northern hemisphere to achieve that in a calendar year since England in 2003.
Farrell said the squad and coaching staff would need to be on message as quickly as possible given the size of their task against a team who put together a record 18 successive test wins before Ireland sensationally beat them in Chicago in November.
“The challenge for us will be to get on the same page as quickly as possible, appreciate fully the danger they pose and find solutions to their attacking threats,” said Farrell, whose son, England kicker Owen, is likely to be on the tour as well.
Howley, 46, has been a trusted lieutenant of Gatland since being hired as Wales’ attack coach when the New Zealander took over the national coach role in 2008.
Former England captain Borthwick’s stock rose on the back of Japan’s impressive World Cup campaign last year when he was the forwards coach – which included a victory over two-time world champions South Africa.
The 37-year-old former lock moved to the England set-up when former Brave Blossoms boss Eddie Jones took over the reins after the departure of Stuart Lancaster – under whom Farrell was defence coach – following a first-round World Cup exit.
Jones, with Borthwick in tow, has since seen the revitalised England team win 14 tests in a row.
The size of the task facing the Lions is that they are bidding to record just their second series win against Gatland’s native New Zealand – Carwyn James’ side in 1971 being the benchmark for them.
The three-test series against the All Blacks will be the culmination of a 10-fixture tour that includes five games against Super Rugby opposition and a clash with the Maoris.
The Lions’ first match in New Zealand takes place early in June, just a week after the English Premiership and Celtic League finals.