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Gregor Townsend among British and Irish Lions coaching appointments for summer South Africa tour

George Flood
·3-min read
<p>Gregor Townsend played for the Lions in South Africa in 1997</p> (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Gregor Townsend played for the Lions in South Africa in 1997

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Warren Gatland has announced his coaching team for the British and Irish Lions’ summer trip to South Africa.

Scotland boss Gregor Townsend - who played in the Lions’ successful series win over the Springboks in 1997 - will serve as attack coach for the three-Test tour that is due to begin in July.

He will be joined by Scotland’s defence guru Steve Tandy, former Wales forwards - and current Leinster assistant - coach Robin McBryde and the Welsh kicking and skills coach Neil Jenkins, who has served as an assistant for the Lions during their last three tours.

“I am very pleased to have assembled 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’ll all complement each other well in South Africa.”

Other than Gatland, Jenkins is the only coach from the 2017 tour to New Zealand to return, with Townsend, Tandy and McBryde replacing Rob Howley, Andy Farrell and Steve Borthwick respectively.

Graham Rowntree also does not return as scrum coach, with no Englishmen on the staff at present.

“A Lions Tour is a unique challenge, so it’s important to have some continuity in the coaching group. Neil understands the exceptional demands that only a Lions Tour can present, and we will benefit from his knowledge and experience,” Gatland added.

“But it’s also important to have new voices and a fresh perspective. Gregor is doing an excellent job in charge of Scotland and is an outstanding coach. He also understands the challenges of touring South Africa as a player and what it takes to win there, so I am extremely happy he will be part of the set-up.

“Steve has made Scotland’s defence one of the most organised in world rugby – something we saw throughout the recent Six Nations. He’s clearly an intelligent coach and someone I am very much looking forward to working with.

“Obviously Robin is someone who I know very well from our time together in Wales. He is an impressive and experienced coach who continues to have success with Leinster. I think he’ll be well suited to the Lions environment and I am sure he will do an excellent job with the forwards.

“As the Tour approaches we may look to bring in some extra resource, but this will be the core group for the time being.”

After no shortage of uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and suggestions that the series could be held on home soil or even in Australia, it was announced last month that the Lions were still planning to travel to South Africa as scheduled this summer.

Gatland’s squad are due to face the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls as well as South Africa ‘Invitational’ and ‘A’ sides before their first Test against the Springboks at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on July 24.

The second Test takes place seven days later in Cape Town before the series wraps up back in Johannesburg at Ellis Park on August 7.

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