Thu, Nov 22, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Lions may look beyond `Home Unions' for coach

AFP , CARDIFF

The British and Irish Lions are ready to bring in a coach from beyond their own borders for the 2009 tour of South Africa.

The Lions, whose teams are made up of players from the four "Home Unions" of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, have only once been under the direction of a foreign coach.

That was in 2001 when New Zealand's Graham Henry, who'd impressed while in charge of Wales and whose highly fancied All Black team lost to France in the quarter-finals of this year's World Cup, was appointed for the tour of Australia. But the Lions went on to lose a three-match series 2-1.

However, two years ago in New Zealand, with England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward in charge of a huge playing party and backroom staff, the Lions were thrashed 3-0.

Legendary Wales and Lions wing Gerald Davies was installed on Tuesday as the 2009 tour manager that will see the British Isles, to give them their formal title, play three Tests against the World Cup holders after the Springboks beat defending champions England 15-6 in last month's final in Paris.

But the choice of a coach is still some way off.

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

"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," Feehan said.

The Lions' committee, which will select the coach, is made up of one representative from each of the four constituent countries. They are all former internationals with Andy Irvine (Scotland), Bill Beaumont (England) and Ireland's Noel Murphy alongside Davies.

Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan had been regarded as a leading contender to guide the Lions in South Africa but the failure of his team to reach the knockout phase of the World Cup was major setback to his chances.

Scotland's Ian McGeechan, previously coach of several Lions sides, is another possibility as are former Wallaby boss Eddie Jones and New Zealand's Warren Gatland, who next month becomes coach of Wales having already been in charge of Ireland.

Davies, one of rugby union's greatest wings, was a key member of the only Lions side to have so far won a series in New Zealand, in 1971, where he played in all four Tests and scored three tries in a 2-1 success with one draw.

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