Gregor Townsend, Steve Tandy, Robin McBryde and Neil Jenkins are confirmed as Warren Gatland’s assistants for the Lions tour of South Africa today.
As reported by Sportsmail The coaching team consists of three former Lions players – Scotland coach Townsend, former Wales and now Leinster striker McBryde and Welshman Jenkins – and ex-Ospreys coach Tandy, who is now in charge of Scottish defense.
Gatland wanted his group to revive from 2017 and named Irish boss Andy Farrell, Munsters Graham Rowntree and Leicester’s rugby director Steve Borthwick, but everyone told him they couldn’t tour this summer.
Warren Gatland (center) has named his team of trainers for the Lions Tour of South Africa
Scottish head coach Gregor Townsend and defense coach Steve Tandy are part of the line-up
Farrell and Borthwick were planning on doing Ireland and Tigers duties this summer, and Rowntree decided against it for family reasons.
While Townsend and Jenkins have always been Gatland’s head coach, the New Zealander has chosen to plan B for his fellow lieutenants.
“I am very pleased to have put together 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 will all complement each other well in South Africa.
‘A Lions tour is a unique challenge so it is important to have some continuity in the coaching group. Neil understands the extraordinary demands that only a Lions tour can make and we will benefit from his knowledge and experience.
“But it’s also important to have new voices and a new perspective. Gregor does a great job in Scotland and is an excellent coach. He also understands the challenges of touring South Africa as a player and what it takes to win there. So I’m very happy that it will be part of the setup.
‘Steve made Scotland’s defenses one of the most organized in rugby in the world – something we’ve seen in the last six nations. He’s clearly an intelligent trainer and someone I’m very happy with.
Gatland has worked with both Neil Jenkins (left) and Robin McBryde (right) while working with Wales
“Obviously Robin is someone I know very well from our time together in Wales. He is an impressive and experienced trainer who continues to have success with Leinster. I think he will do well for the Lions environment and I am sure he will do an excellent job with the strikers.
‘As the tour approaches we may try to bring in additional resources but this will be the core group for now.
‘Touring South Africa is always a big challenge and clearly when the squad gathers in June to start our preparations everything will look and feel a little different from previous tours. After talking to the trainers individually over the past few days, we are determined to make it a pleasant, unforgettable and ultimately successful experience for everyone involved. ‘
Townsend, who was the fly half on the famous Lions tour to South Africa in 1997, was blocked by the Scottish Rugby Union’s participation in the 2017 New Zealand trip.
But the 47-year-old now has the blessing to travel and will take on the Lions attack, with colleague Tandy running the defense.
“To be there as a player and now as a coach is really humbling,” commented Townsend, who will now lobby on behalf of his Scots who have been poorly represented on modern tours.
“The Springboks are great opponents on home soil but given the talent in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it’s an extremely exciting opportunity for us to do something special.”
Irish head coach Andy Farrell declined to tour with the Lions this summer
Tandy, 41, played for Neath and the Ospreys until he retired in 2010, before becoming a coach. Between 2012 and 2018 he led the Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones in the Swansea region and, after a year as coach of the Waratahs in Australia, took over the Scottish defense job in 2019.
In the last six nations, Tandy’s Scottish defense has been the second worst with 91 points and 10 attempts in five games, three points behind the Irish.
“It is a tremendous test to face the champions in their own backyard and I am really looking forward to being a part of it,” added Tandy.
“There have been some brilliant Lions defense coaches in the past – Andy Farrell, Shaun Edwards and Phil Larder – so it’s a great honor to be selected.”
McBryde is well known at Gatland and has been part of their Welsh coaching team for more than a decade. During that time he led Wales when Gatland competed with the Lions against the US and Canada in 2009 and during a South Pacific tour in 2017.
Now at Leinster – the top team in the Pro14 league that defeated the Exeter Chiefs for the European Cup semi-finals last weekend – he has an eye on Irish rivals like Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan and has an extensive knowledge of the Welsh language.
“We saw excellent rugby in the Six Nations recently, with some outstanding performances from players from the four home nations – especially some of the strikers,” said McBryde, who will stay with Leinster until the end of his season.
The Lions will play on UK soil before touring and playing Japan in Murrayfield
“This is really positive for the Lions.
“South African rugby is known for its physicality, so we have no illusions about what to expect when we arrive. The challenge for us will be to get together quickly and play physically and uncompromisingly. ‘
Jenkins will be on his sixth Lions tour, having performed as a player in 1997 and 2001 and as a kick specialist in 2009, 2013 and 2017.
“The Lions are a unique experience for players and coaches,” said Jenkins.
‘It’s very exciting to bring the best players from four countries together and play against the Springboks in their own yard. It’s incredibly special for me to do this with one of my Lions teammates from 24 years ago. ‘
The Lions are expected to play Japan in Murrayfield on June 26th before embarking on their eight-game tour of South Africa, which will be completed in early August.