Warren Gatland: It’s nothing to do with ‘do I feel the need to have an English coach?’
There are no English coaches or members of Eddie Jones’ coaching ticket involved
Warren Gatland has named Scottish defence coach Steve Tandy, Leinster forwards coach Robin McBryde, as well as Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend on his Lions coaching ticket. File photograph: Getty Images
Warren Gatland has admitted that it had been “an eventful last week” in endeavouring to assemble his Lions coaching ticket for the proposed tour of South Africa, although he’d known for some time that in all likelihood Andy Farrell was unlikely to be part of his plans.
The IRFU are still exploring the viability of a three-test tour to Fiji in Japan and hence Farrell was not in a position to make himself available for third Lions tour in succession as Gatland’s defence coach.
The unavailability of Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree for a third successive tour was due to personal reasons, as having persuaded his family to relocate to Limerick he was not of a mind to leave them for eight weeks, all the more so with the possibility of having to then go into quarantine for a further two weeks on returning to Ireland.
“There’s no doubt that it’s been an eventful last week,” said Gatland. “I’ve known for a long time that Andy Farrell potentially wasn’t going to be available to us and we have been talking for a number of weeks so that wasn’t the decision last week, that he wasn’t available.
“With regard to that, I had spoken to Gregor a number of weeks ago about Steve Tandy as a possibility. He was very complimentary about him, in terms of the role he has done with Scotland the last few years. Their defence has probably been the best in the last championship,” said Gatland.
Indeed, not only did Scotland concede just 10 tries in the Six Nations, the joint lowest with Ireland and France, but they had by far the fewest missed tackles (54), compared to Ireland and England, each with 92, France (95), Wales (112) and Italy (143).
“That for me was a relatively easy one in terms of already knowing that Andy was unlikely to be unavailable.
“The situations with Steve (Borthwick) and Graham Rowntree were different,” added Gatland, in reference to two others from previous tours who had made themselves unavailable.
“Steve is an incredibly honourable person and there are changes happening at Leicester,” said Galtand, as a result of which Borthwick felt he could not afford time away from Leicester’s off-season.
“It’s different for club coaches compared to international coaches in terms of the timeframes. He just felt that was his day job and he needed to be there at the helm for Leicester.
“With Graham it was a different situation. One of the things with me, my philosophy is that family always comes first and he had been trying to convince his family to come over from Leicester to Limerick for the last few years and they finally moved over and he’s trying to get them settled in with the challenges of Covid and stuff.
“He just felt that being away from eight weeks, and possibly 10 weeks with this quarantine as well, that it was just too much. He just said that, ‘I need to be there for my family and just to make sure that my family gets settled. So I understand that.”
While Gregor Townsend “gives continuity” Gatland said he knew McBryde well from their time together with Wales.
“Robin, after Wales, has gone to Leinster and done great job there. He has expanded his role. He was originally the scrums and into the forwards coach. We saw how well they played at the weekend against Exeter so for me that was an easy fit.
“The response was exactly what I wanted to hear,” said Gatland in reference to McBryde and Tandy.
“We may bring someone else a little bit later on, whether that is someone who comes in before the tour or during the tour. I’m looking to see what the final schedules are for the international sides. They haven’t been finalised yet. Are teams going on tour? Are they playing at home? Who are they playing against? We’ll just be flexible on that.”
The anticipated absence of any English coaches or members of Eddie Jones’ coaching ticket has been a talking point, but Gatland said: “People are trying to make a story about that. It’s nothing to do with ‘do I feel the need to have an English coach?’ It’s about me picking who is going to be the best fit for myself, people I have worked with in the past and people I want to work with in the group.”