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Published: Thu, December 08, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Warren Gatland keeps lid on British and Irish Lions 'mystery' coach

Warren Gatland keeps lid on British and Irish Lions 'mystery' coach

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland says about half of his squad are already pencilled in for next year's New Zealand tour.

This opens the door for Wales interim-coach Rob Howley, Ireland defensive coach Andy Farrell, England forwards coach Steve Borthwick and former Wales points scoring machine Neil Jenkins, who are likely to join Gatland in New Zealand.

Farrell will be the defence coach, Borthwick will supervise the forwards, and Howley will be responsible for attack.

"It's been challenging, and I've spoken with a lot of people", Gatland, 53, said of the process to choose his trio of coaches, which began in earnest a month ago.

And now that the coaches are in place, speculation will intensify over the make-up of Gatland's final squad, which will be announced on April 19.

"One thing I have certainly learnt about coaching is don't look back too much, you have to keep looking forward, and that is what I have tried to do", he said.

Former England and Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan is possibly on the radar, while Saracens' trophy double-winning rugby director Mark McCall also has many admirers. He is the only newcomer to the Lions' backroom team.

"I said from the outset it was important to have continuity because we need to hit the ground running, given the limited preparation time", said Gatland.

"It is another important step on the road to New Zealand", tour manager John Spencer told the Lions' official website ahead of Wednesday's unveiling in Dublin.

Phillips said discussions were "at an advanced stage" with a number of other individuals about the Wales tour, with a hope of confirming the full management team line-up next week.

Borthwick, who won 57 Test caps and made nearly 400 appearances for Bath and Saracens, worked with Jones during Japan's memorable 2015 World Cup campaign that included them defeating South Africa, before joining him last December after Jones was appointed as England boss.

Jones, with Borthwick in tow, has since seen the revitalised England team win 14 Tests in a row.

And Howley said: "The British and Irish Lions is at the pinnacle of worldwide rugby".

"The players will bring different strengths, and we need to bring it together quickly in a short space of time".

Farrell has described the Lions Tour as a "unique experience for players and coaches".

Howley, who represented the Lions as player in 1997 and 2001 and coach in 2009 and 2013, said: "I'm delighted to be part of the coaching team".

"Because of the nature of global rugby it is not often that you get the opportunity to develop coaches in different environments".

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