It’s not his first-choice backroom team but Warren Gatland has revealed the names of the men who will serve as his brains trust for the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
There is no Andy Farrell, no Graham Rowntree, or Steve Borthwick. All have reportedly declined the offer to take part for various reasons, forcing the Kiwi to look elsewhere for the support required to take on the world champions.
Those revealed had been well-signposted.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, his assistant Steve Tandy, Leinster’s Robin McBryde and Wales’ Neil Jenkins are those entrusted with coming with the nuance and detail to take down the Boks.
The tour begins with a game against Japan at BT Murrayfield on June 26th, “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.
“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.”
Injury may have ended Robin McBryde’s only Tour early but he still has a place in the record books after being part of the side that recorded the Lions’ biggest ever win in 2001 – coming on as a replacement for Keith Wood in the 116-10 victory over Western Australia.
That was the opening game of the 2001 Tour and four days later the Llanelli hooker started against Queensland Presidents XV but was forced off injured after just eight minutes, as the Lions recorded another big win.
Bangor-born McBryde’s second start in the famous red jersey came a week later during the 28-25 defeat to Australia A and he was a late replacement in the 41-24 victory over NSW Waratahs, before injury ended his Tour early.
“I am very much looking forward to linking up with Warren and being part of his coaching group again,” said McBryde, who toured with the Lions as a player in 2001.
“We’ve seen some excellent rugby in the Six Nations recently with some standout performances by players from the four Home Nations, especially some of the forwards. 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.
“I am grateful and excited for the opportunity ahead, but my focus will remain with Leinster until the end of the season and I’m incredibly grateful to them for allowing me to tour.”
Scotland head coach Townsend will take charge of the Lions’ attack. This will be the first time the former Scottish fly half will have been part of a Lions coaching team, having previously toured South Africa triumphantly as a player in 1997.
Tandy will be responsible for the Lions defence. Former Wales assistant coach McBryde, now an assistant coach at Leinster Rugby, will take responsibility of the forwards but will remain with the province until the season is done before linking up with Gatland.
Welsh kicking coach Jenkins will look after the kickers. This will be his sixth tour as both a player and coach.