McGeechan expects familiar Lions coaching team
November 2, 2012
Warren Gatland worked under Sir Ian McGeechan on the Lions' tour of South Africa in 2009 © Getty Images
Sir Ian McGeechan believes British & Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland will opt for tried and tested when it comes to his support staff but expects Rob Howley to remain with Wales.
Gatland, a long-time collaborator with McGeechan who served as an assistant to the Lions legend in South Africa in 2009, is poised to unveil his management team on December 13 ahead of the 10-match tour of Hong Kong and Australia next year.
England assistant coach Graham Rowntree, Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards and Wales attack coach Howley have all been linked to a return to the Lions set-up having also worked with the elite tourists in South Africa. Gatland also revealed this week that England assistant coach Andy Farrell is also under consideration while Leinster boss Joe Schmidt was another name reportedly in the mix.
"I think you have got to go with people you trust and who you know," said McGeechan, who coached on five of the last six Lions tours having featured on two as a player. "When there is only something like five or six weeks from the initial preparation up to the 1st Test you need to be pretty honest and have honest answers. You can't afford to grow that. If you have people you have worked with and trust and they trust you then I think it gives you a quick start and enables you to have everything in place."
"I certainly went with people I knew well and who I knew I could work with and got them into place early," he added, "not just the coaches but the medical, strength and conditioning, analysis - they were people I knew very well."
Howley's possible involvement appeared unclear after he was confirmed as Wales' caretaker coach for the end of year internationals and the 2013 Six Nations when Gatland will be concentrating on identifying and forming his squad selection.
However, the Welsh Rugby Union's (WRU) decision to not include Wales' tour of Japan next summer as part of Howley's extended remit hinted that they expected Gatland to want the former Lions scrum-half to join him Down Under.
The WRU has also gone on record to say they would not block any move from the Lions to utilise any of their coaching team but McGeechan feels that they may prefer to keep hold of Howley as they plot a succession plan beyond Gatland's tenure with the current Wales boss contracted until the end of 2015.
"It's up to Warren but I think Wales will want some stability," said McGeechan, who will travel to Australia as an ambassador for the Lions and sponsor FirstCape. "Rob Howley is seen as head coach designate and will be doing that for some of the autumn internationals. I think the stronger direction to take would be Rob Howley staying with Wales as they will need the continuity especially with the loss of Warren and they need that similar thinking to carry on."
Either way, McGeechan is confident that Gatland will find a winning blend. "He will go with who he trusts and is a good man-manager," he said. "He sets really good environments and you can see that with Wales and everywhere else he has been. Andy Irvine as manager knows that as well so I think the management side of things is an exciting prospect."
Sir Ian McGeechan is the ambassador for FirstCape wine which has launched www.lionswineclub.com in association with The British & Irish Lions. For more information about FirstCape wine visit www.firstcape.com
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.