Tuesday 6 December 2016

Lions boss Gatland considering taking two attack coaches to take on the All Blacks

Nick Purewal

Published 01/11/2016 | 20:42

Handout photo dated 01/11/16 provided by Synergy PR/Canterbury of British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland posing next to a hologram projection of the official British & Irish Lions Jersey ahead of their 2017 tour to New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION
Handout photo dated 01/11/16 provided by Synergy PR/Canterbury of British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland posing next to a hologram projection of the official British & Irish Lions Jersey ahead of their 2017 tour to New Zealand. PRESS ASSOCIATION

Warren Gatland could install two specialist attack coaches to bolster the British and Irish Lions' tour to New Zealand next summer.

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Lions boss Gatland has revealed he is seriously considering adding an extra attack co-ordinator to his backroom staff, to be announced on December 7.

The Lions have still won just one tour in New Zealand, in 1971, and Gatland's bid to expand his coaching staff underscores the weight of the challenge of taking on the double world champions.

Gatland's deliberations leave the door open for Wales' Rob Howley and Glasgow's Scotland-bound coach Gregor Townsend to double up and lead the Lions' offence.

"From a coaching (numbers) point of view, it will be pretty much the same as last time," said Gatland, who led the Lions to that 2013 series win in Australia.

"What I'm actually looking to do is maybe add another attack person.

"The reason for that is to really take some pressure off the coaches.

"When you are on tour, you are sometimes preparing two teams and there are lots of times from a coaching perspective where we are training twice a day.

"Probably the hardest thing on tour from a coaching perspective is how hard the coaches work.

"You are constant and I want to be able to give them a day off sometimes or take a bit of a break.

"So we are potentially looking to add one more coach to cope with those demands and take some of the pressure off."

The Lions will open the New Zealand tour by facing a New Zealand Provincial Union XV on June 3 - the weekend after the Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO12 finals.

Former Scotland playmaker Townsend will leave Glasgow to coach Scotland this summer, but could yet be drafted onto the Lions tour.

Gatland has long since come to terms with the scheduling conflicts, but admitted continuity from the 2013 tour could well stand the Lions in good stead next summer.

That brings Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree into the running to be on hand in his backroom staff.

Former England assistant and now Ireland defence coach Farrell impressed hugely in Australia, and could well tour New Zealand.

Rowntree's name will also be in the frame, but England's Steve Borthwick will doubtless be under strong consideration too.

Gatland also revealed he is eyeing a playing squad of a maximum of 40 players for the gruelling 10-match, three-Test tour.

"I have kind of got a number in my head; I am thinking of a squad potentially between 38-40, maybe 39," said Gatland, at Canterbury's official British and Irish Lions 2017 jersey launch.

"Small enough to keep intimate but big enough to cover for injuries without getting too unwieldy and big and out of hand.

"I have said all along that one the challenges for us is the lack of preparation time.

"I think the games are great in New Zealand. The harder the games the better it is.

"What's important is the preparation time in the lead-up to those games so perhaps we will be looking for some continuity of players that have been on previous tours and of the coaching team and the back-up staff, with some new faces.

"There might be a player that went on the last tour that might not be a starting Test player, but he could be really good to bring on tour in terms of his experience. He could be a really great leader and great for a midweek team."

:: Untouchable until it's earnt. Canterbury's new British & Irish Lions Jersey is available to buy at www.canterbury.com

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