The British and Irish Lions have revealed that three of the current Six Nations coaches will effectively be on trial for the Lions head coaching job to be announced later this year.
Scotland coach Andy Robinson, Wales coach Warren Gatland and Ireland coach Declan Kidney will be closely watched during the Six Nations but England’s interim coach Stuart Lancaster will not be considered nor will his successor.
The three national coaches of Ireland, Scotland and Wales currently top the list of possible candidates to coach the Lions on next year’s ten-match three-Test tour to Australia.
If none of the three coaches satisfy the Lions selection committee then chief executive John Feehan has confirmed that Grand Slam winning Scotland coach Ian McGeechan would be considered.
The British and Irish Lions are expected to announce the appointment of the head coach in April this year and all three Six Nations coaches have expressed their interest in leading the Lions.
However if one of the three coaches is appointed he will have to stand down from his current role as national coach for the 2013 Six Nations in order to maximise his preparation time.
“You don’t have to be a genius to work out who the candidates are so from that perspective, we will keep an eye on them and see how well they do (in the Six Nations),” Feehan told the Scotsman.
“All of those people are committed to wanting to do it, which is fantastic. It really comes down to performance now and who we feel will work best.
“Once we have selected the coach, we wouldn’t want them involved in the 2013 Six Nations because we would like to take the pressure away from them in terms of results.
“We also want the coach to be able to get access to and contact with all the international players in the different squads. ”
“He is not going to be able to do that if he is an active coach. We have the support of the Six Nations to do that.”
McGeechan has been on seven Lions tours so far and indicated that he would not be in charge of the Lions again and suggested that for the 2013 tour the coaching team should be built around his assistants from 2009 in Gatland, Shaun Edwards, Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree.
Feehan has stated that Lions experience will be a key factor in the Lions final decision as well as the coaches performance at the 2011 Rugby World Cup which effetively puts Gatland at the top of the list.
“We won’t rule a coach out if he hasn’t (got Lions experience) but clearly the more experience, the better,” Feehan said.
“The big problem with Lions tours is that you have to get it right from day one. ”
“There are no second chances so if a guy understands that and understands the ethos that needs to be built up with the players and the management, it helps. It is a definite bonus to them but a coach is more than just experience.
“There are one or two candidates who haven’t been on a tour before and I have no doubt that they can bring their own insights and own intuition into the situation.”
McGecchan is being considered as the fallback option for the Lions. .
“If we were stuck at the end of the day and we didn’t think any of the coaches were appropriate then we might ask Geech to reconsider his position,” Feehan said.
“Geech is still a viable option if he so chooses. We haven’t had that discussion and probably won’t in the event that a candidate makes himself clear.
“But Geech is probably the best servant the Lions have ever had and we value his views and opinions so he will have an input on where it goes.”
The Lions final selection committee will be made up representatives from the four home unions – Tom Grace (Ireland), Gerald Davies (Wales), Andy Irvine (Scotland), John Spencer (England) – plus Feehan.