Friday 20 April 2018

Gatland claims Lions survival at stake if they crumble in ‘easiest place to tour’

Mick Cleary

On the day that he unveiled Andy Farrell as one of his assistant coaches, Warren Gatland conceded that the future credibility of the Lions was at stake if they were to return from Australia without a series victory.

Gatland also admitted it had been "the hardest decision of his life" to make the call to his long-time friend and coaching ally Shaun Edwards to break the news that he would be taking Edwards' former Wigan team-mate Farrell rather than him as one of the three assistant coaches.

"For the Lions to be successful as a brand they've got to start winning some tours," said Gatland. "All the discussion after the (unsuccessful) 2005 trip to New Zealand was of wondering if the Lions were dead and would they be scrapped."

Gatland upped the ante for the trip by describing Australia as "the easiest place to tour", adding: "If you'd said to me, out of the three southern hemisphere teams, pick your choice of where you'd like to go, I would've said Australia."

Farrell, paraded yesterday in the opulent stately-home surroundings of Hopetoun House just outside Edinburgh, is integral to the success of the Lions mission, a relative novice still at this level of coaching, but a man imbued with a positive outlook in whatever circumstance.

"Australia is a real sport-loving nation. There will be a lot of old tricks of the trade coming our way. They'll try to ruffle our feathers," he said.

"But you look at the players that the Lions are going to take over and you can't not be full of confidence."

Gatland disclosed that bringing in Farrell – who will focus on defence while Howley works on attack – to "freshen up" the coaching team from 2009 was something of a "selfish" decision.

"It will stimulate me, challenge me," said Gatland, who revealed that he had also sounded out Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.

The Lions coaches went through the process of choosing a putative 36-man squad on Tuesday night, excluding those who were injured. Rowntree revealed that it had taken them an hour to decide on the back-row alone.

Hopetoun House was once the ancestral home of the governor-general of Australia.

That post has become a relic of the past. Every effort was being made yesterday to ensure that the Lions do not follow suit. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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