Leading contenders for Lions head coach in 2021
Joe Schmidt is a prime contender but his future is not mapped out past January 2019
Joe Schmidt would be many people’s ideal replacement for Warren Gatland as Lions head coach. Photograph: Getty Images
Warren Gatland has ruled himself out of contention to coach the British and Irish Lions in 2021, revealing that he ”hated the press and negativity” during this summer’s drawn series in New Zealand.
Here we examine fives alternatives to lead the tour to South Africa.
EDDIE JONES — ENGLAND
Contracted to England until 2019 so the timing of the Lions tour two years later is far from perfect, but should he stay on by being successful at the next World Cup, Jones would be in the mix. By 2021 his insight into British and Irish rugby would be extensive — combine that with his coaching expertise and he becomes an excellent candidate.
JOE SCHMIDT — IRELAND
Another highly-respected tactician whose future is not mapped out beyond Japan 2019, Schmidt was in consideration for the post in New Zealand until the stars aligned in Gatland’s favour. The Kiwi may seek a return home where he is much admired by the All Blacks hierarchy, but if available for the Lions he becomes a prime contender.
MARK MCCALL — SARACENS
The Ulsterman’s stock climbs higher every season, to the point that he is mooted in some quarters as Jones’ successor at Twickenham despite a lack of international experience. Undoubtedly the pick of coaches operating in the Aviva Premiership as the guide of Saracens’ rise to the pinnacle of European rugby, he could become Schmidt’s successor at Ireland thereby paving the way to take charge of the Lions.
GREGOR TOWNSEND — SCOTLAND
The least experienced of the candidates on this list, but a young coach of rich promise with a strong Lions pedigree as a player who helped topple the Springboks in 1997. Gatland wanted to take Townsend to New Zealand as part of his backroom staff during the summer, but the 44-year-old rejected the opportunity in order to focus on his new role at the helm of Scotland.
DAI YOUNG — WASPS
Wasps’ fortunes have suffered this season amid a glut of injuries and — while Young has yet to win the major silverware that will elevate him to the top rank of coaches on these shores — he is a respected figure who is well placed to succeed Gatland when he steps down after the 2019 World Cup. From that position the door opens to taking charge of a Lions tour.