Warren Gatland has unveiled his assistant coaches for the British & Irish Lions’ 2017 tour of New Zealand with England’s Steve Borthwick, Ireland’s Andy Farrell and Wales’ Rob Howley all on the plane. Here we run the rule over who forms the brains trust tasked with taking down the All Blacks.
Steve Borthwick (forwards)
Steve Borthwick has shored up England’s set piece. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
It has been some rise in stock for the ex-England captain. At the end of last year he was coaching in the championship at Bristol — then came the call from his old mentor Eddie Jones, who had worked with Borthwick during his playing days at Saracens and at the 2015 Rugby World Cup with Japan.
At England he has been credited with shoring up their set piece and is known to be someone fascinated — verging on obsessed — with the intricacies of the lineout . He will bring a wealth of knowledge to the Lions.
“He’s a fantastic coach,” England captain Dylan Hartley said. “The standards he drives here, the prep that he puts in … he’s unbelievable.
“He was like it as a player and a captain. When Eddie’s sat at the top driving those expectations, standards, asking more, it only filters down and it filters directly to Steve, and he’s pretty much the same. [He’s a] Great guy and knows his rugby.”
Andy Farrell (defence)
Andy Farrell was in charge of the defence on the 2013 Lions tour (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Farrell took charge of the defence under Gatland for the victorious 2013 tour of Australia. Gatland said at the time that one of the reasons he took Farrell — who was then assistant coach to Stuart Lancaster at England — was to garner some inside knowledge of what defensive system Wales were going to face in the 2015 Rugby World Cup pool stage. As it transpired, Wales defeated England and helped nudge them towards the exit door and Farrell, along with Graham Rowntree, Mike Catt and Lancaster, were shown the door.
Farrell was appointed as Ireland’s new defence guru in January and has slotted in seamlessly. He is credited with playing an integral role in their memorable win over the All Blacks and will be hoping to replicate that feat when they travel to New Zealand in June.
“Defensively, with Andy coming in, he brings a huge amount of experience and a massive amount of energy when we do defend,” Conor Murray said of Farrell. “There’s a bit of a buzz about the defensive sessions and he’s brought his own experiences and ideas to it, and the guys really love it.
“Training with him, the talks you have off the pitch, he just fills you full of confidence and makes you want to go and defend for each other, which is a natural thing for us.”
Rob Howley (attack)
Rob Howley knows the Lions well both as a player and a coach. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Howley played on the 1997 and 2001 Lions tours and was coach on 2009 and 2013 under Sir Ian McGeechan and Gatland. He has been part of Gatland’s Wales’ staff since 2008 and presided over the autumn internationals campaign which saw them win three from four.
Despite finishing on a winning note against South Africa, Howley came in for criticism with ex-Wales international Jonathan Davies saying at the weekend that Howley should turn down the Lions’ advances and concentrate on the national team. Though he has been in the spotlight recently, he has delivered on Lions tours before and knows Gatland’s systems better than anyone.
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