'New voices' to plot Springboks' downfall
REACTION: Warren Gatland said the British and Irish Lions would benefit from “new voices” on their tour of South Africa.
The B&I Lions head coach on Tuesday unveiled his backroom staff for the trip in July and August.
Steve Tandy, Robin McBryde and Neil Jenkins will also form part of Gatland’s coaching team
There are no members of Eddie Jones’ England staff among the Lions coaches, with no Englishmen involved at all.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell, Leicester boss Steve Borthwick and Munster’s Graham Rowntree are all unable to take part due to international, club or family commitments.
For Townsend, Scotland defence coach Tandy and former Wales forwards coach McBryde, now with Leinster, it will be their first tour as part of the Lions coaching team, with Wales great Jenkins in his fourth tour as kicking coach.
Like Jenkins, former Scotland flyhalf Townsend starred as a player for the Lions during their victorious 1997 tour of South Africa.
Both Townsend and Tandy, who effectively replaces Farrell in the Lions set-up, have been appointed following a notable Six Nations for Scotland in which they won away against both England and France.
“We’ve felt their defence has probably been the best in the championship last year and this year,” Gatland told reporters on Tuesday.
Gatland led the Lions to a series win in Australia in 2013 and a drawn series in his native New Zealand four years later.
But while acknowledging the value of Lions coaching experience, he added: “It’s also important to have new voices and a fresh perspective. Gregor is doing an excellent job in charge of Scotland.”
As for McBryde and Tandy, former Wales boss Gatland said: “The buzz I got really was having the phone call with Robin and Steve Tandy, asking them to come on board.
“Their response was unbelievable, brilliant. Steve said to me ‘Oh my God, I’m shaking at the knees, I’m just so excited’.”
Tandy added: “It has been pretty whirlwind, and I am blown away by it.”
Meanwhile, Gatland said nothing should be read into the absence of any England coaches in the Lions set-up, which could yet be expanded.
“People are trying to make a story out of that… No one made an issue of it in the past when we haven’t had Scottish coaches.
“It’s just about trying to pick who you think are the best people to come into your environment, who I think I can work well with and hopefully put a good team together.”
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Townsend said he was looking forward to the “exciting challenge” of helping build a team in a short period of time.
Turning to Tandy’s involvement, Townsend said the Welshman had been “outstanding” in his 18 months with Scotland and that the “defensive side of our performances has got better and better”.
Townsend added that playing for a victorious Lions team “means more now than it did 24 years ago”.
“You realise with each passing year how important the Lions are and how fortunate and lucky I was to be involved on such a good Lions tour in South Africa back then.”
The Lions are planning to go ahead with a July and August tour despite the coronavirus pandemic, with South Africa not having played a match since beating England in the 2019 World Cup final.
But an original schedule consisting of a June warm-up against Japan in Edinburgh and an eight-match tour culminating with three Tests against the world champion Springboks could be revised.