Monday, September 27News That Matters

Warren Gatland confirms Steve Tandy, Robin McBryde and Neil Jenkins as his Lions Tour assistants

Gregor Townsend, Steve Tandy, Robin McBryde and Neil Jenkins are confirmed today as Warren Gatland’s assistants for the Lions tour to South Africa.

As reported by Sportsmail the coaching team includes three former Lions players – in Scotland coach Townsend, former Wales and now Leinster forwards coach McBryde, and Welshman Jenkins – as well as ex-Ospreys coach Tandy who now runs the Scottish defence.

Gatland had wanted to reprise his group from 2017, appointing Ireland boss Andy Farrell, Munster’s Graham Rowntree and Leicester’s director of rugby Steve Borthwick, but all told him they could not tour this summer.

Warren Gatland (centre) has named his coaching team for the Lions Tour of South Africa

Warren Gatland (centre) has named his coaching team for the Lions Tour of South Africa

Warren Gatland (centre) has named his coaching team for the Lions Tour of South Africa

Gregor Townsend heads as an attacking coach

Gregor Townsend heads as an attacking coach

Steve Tandy also joins the set up

Steve Tandy also joins the set up

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and defence coach Steve Tandy are part of the set-up

Farrell and Borthwick wanted to commit to Ireland and Tigers tasks this summer respectively, and Rowntree opted not to for family reasons.

So while Townsend and Jenkins were always head coach Gatland’s first choices, the New Zealander has turned to plan B for his other lieutenants.

‘I am very pleased to have assembled such a high-quality coaching team,’ said Gatland.

‘It’s a really strong group and I’m excited to see what we can achieve together – I think we’ll all complement each other well in South Africa.

‘A Lions Tour is a unique challenge, so it’s important to have some continuity in the coaching group. Neil understands the exceptional demands that only a Lions Tour can present, and we will benefit from his knowledge and experience.

‘But it’s also important to have new voices and a fresh perspective. Gregor is doing an excellent job in charge of Scotland and is an outstanding coach. He also understands the challenges of touring South Africa as a player and what it takes to win there, so I am extremely happy he will be part of the set-up.

‘Steve has made Scotland’s defence one of the most organised in world rugby – something we saw throughout the recent Six Nations. He’s clearly an intelligent coach and someone I am very much looking forward to working with.

Neil Jenkins is part of the team

Neil Jenkins is part of the team

Robin McBryde has worked with Gatland before

Robin McBryde has worked with Gatland before

Gatland has worked with both Neil Jenkins (left) and Robin McBryde (right) while with Wales

‘Obviously Robin is someone who I know very well from our time together in Wales. He is an impressive and experienced coach who continues to have success with Leinster. I think he’ll be well suited to the Lions environment and I am sure he will do an excellent job with the forwards.

‘As the Tour approaches we may look to bring in some extra resource, but this will be the core group for the time being.

‘Touring South Africa is always a huge challenge and clearly when the squad assembles in June to begin our preparations everything is going to look and feel a bit different to previous tours. But having spoken to the coaches individually over the past few days we’re absolutely determined to make it an enjoyable, memorable and ultimately successful experience for everyone involved.’

Townsend, who was the fly-half on the famous 1997 Lions tour to South Africa, was blocked by attending the 2017 trip to New Zealand by the Scottish Rugby Union.

But the 47-year-old now has their blessing to travel and will take charge of the Lions attack, with his colleague Tandy running the defence.

‘To be involved as a player and now as a coach is truly humbling,’ commented Townsend who will now look to lobby on behalf of his Scots who have been poorly represented on modern tours.

‘The Springboks are a formidable opponent on home turf, but looking at the talent in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it is a hugely exciting opportunity for us to do something special.’

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell turned down the chance to tour with the Lions this summer

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell turned down the chance to tour with the Lions this summer

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell turned down the chance to tour with the Lions this summer

Tandy, 41, played for Neath and the Ospreys until his retirement in 2010 before becoming a coach. Between 2012 and 2018 he led the likes of Wales legend Alun Wyn Jones at the Swansea-based region and, after a year coaching the Waratahs in Australia, took the Scotland defence job in 2019.

In the recent Six Nations Tandy’s Scotland defence was the second-most miserly, conceding 91 points and 10 tries in five games, three points behind the Irish.

‘To take on the World Champions in their own backyard is a massive test and one I am really looking forward to being part of,’ added Tandy.

‘There have been some brilliant Lions defence coaches in the past – Andy Farrell, Shaun Edwards and Phil Larder – so it’s a huge honour to be chosen.’

McBryde is very well known to Gatland, having been part of his Welsh coaching team for more than a decade. During that time he led Wales when Gatland was away with the Lions against the USA and Canada in 2009 and during a South Pacific tour of 2017.

Now at Leinster – the top side in the Pro14 league and who beat Exeter Chiefs to make European Cup semi-finals last weekend – he has a close eye on Irish contenders like Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan as well as extensive knowledge of the Welsh.

‘We’ve seen some excellent rugby in the Six Nations recently with some stand out performances by players from the four Home Nations – especially some of the forwards,’ said McBryde who will stay at Leinster until their season is over.

The Lions will play on British soil before heading off on tour, playing Japan at Murrayfield

The Lions will play on British soil before heading off on tour, playing Japan at Murrayfield

The Lions will play on British soil before heading off on tour, playing Japan at Murrayfield

‘That’s really positive for the Lions.

‘South African rugby is known for its physicality, so we’ll be under no illusions of what to expect when we arrive. The challenge for us will be to come together quickly and be physical and uncompromising in the way we play.’

Jenkins will join his sixth Lions tour, having been a player in 1997 and 2001 as well as the kicking specialist in 2009, 2013 and 2017.

‘The Lions is a unique experience for players and coaches,’ said Jenkins.

‘To bring together the best players from four countries and take on the Springboks in their own backyard is very exciting. To do it with one of my Lions teammates from 24 years ago is incredibly special for me.’

The Lions are scheduled to play Japan at Murrayfield on June 26 before embarking on their eight-match tour of South Africa which is set to conclude in early August.