Lions hunt could go global

The Lions will cast their net beyond the four home unions in their search for the right coach to lead the 2009 tour to South Africa.

The Lions will cast their net beyond the four home unions in their search for the right coach to lead the 2009 tour to South Africa.

Traditionally the successful candidate has been promoted on the back of a fruitful spell with England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

But in their effort to secure the best man for the job, the Lions committee are ready to broaden the parameters of their search.

Lions chief executive John Feehan said: “Selection of the coach will not take place until after the Six Nations next year.

“We feel it will be appropriate to wait until after then because it gives many potential candidates the opportunity to prove themselves.

“The process will be that each of the unions will be invited to submit a name. However, that will not be the exclusive route.

“If there’s an alternative candidate who’s a better option, then he will also be considered. The Lions committee will decide who the coach is.

“At the moment the committee is made up of Andy Irvine, Bill Beaumont, Gerald Davies and Noel Murphy.

“Whether it’s the same committee when we make the actual selection remains to be seen, but it does give an indication of the calibre of the individuals making the decision.”

With no outstanding candidate from the home unions at this moment in time, the change in policy has thrown up several fascinating scenarios.

Former Wallaby supremo Eddie Jones, South Africa’s World Cup winning coach Jake White and veteran Lions boss Ian McGeechan are all possible alternatives.

Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan was favourite for the post, only for his side’s disastrous World Cup to significantly damage his chances.

The role of tour manager for the three-Test series against the world champion Springboks has been filled by Wales legend Gerald Davies, it was confirmed today.

Davies featured on two Lions tours – to South Africa in 1968 and New Zealand in 1971 – and scored 20 tries during a 46-cap Wales career.

“I’m extraordinarily privileged to be named tour manager,” said Davies.

“I’m thankful for all the support given to me by the Lions committee and home unions.

“I hope I can fulfil the task put upon me. I’m determined it will be a hugely successful tour.

“Lions tours are unforgettable experiences. This is a great privilege bestowed upon me and I hope I can do a suitable job.”

HSBC were today unveiled as a principal partner to the Lions tour to South Africa in a deal that sees them become shirt sponsors.

The Lions also announced the appointment of Irvine as chairman of the board, succeeding Bill Beaumont who has stood down due to his commitments as International Rugby Board vice-chairman.

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