Andy Farrell, the head of the Irish national team, is currently the leading contender according to bookmakers to assume the role of guiding the British & Irish Lions in 2025, as he received an endorsement for the position from former coach Warren Gatland.
Gatland confirmed his intentions to step away from the iconic touring side earlier today, via a self written column for the Telegraph.
The news has come amongst speculation that the Wales Head Coach would step down from his British & Irish Lions commitments, having been the side’s Head Coach for the 2013, 2017 and 2021 tours.
Gatland identified Andy Farrell as the next in line, and re-called in the colomn discussions he had with Wales Director of Rugby Nigel Walker, about stepping away from future Lions commitments.
“A few weeks ago, I was asked by Nigel Walker, Wales’ director of rugby, if I was interested in putting my name forward to be head coach for the next tour in Australia in 2025.”
“It did not take long to get back to him. I told him I was not going to put my name forward. I told Nigel that I would have no problem if any of my support staff were to be asked to be involved as I would see it as a great experience for them.
“But I think it is the opportunity now for someone else to be head coach and Andy Farrell would have my backing for the job.
“You cannot deny what Ireland have achieved as a nation over the last few years and you are starting to see the fruition of the alignment between the Irish provinces and the union. There is no doubt that Andy has done a fantastic job.”
With Farrell as Head Coach, Ireland achieved their longest-ever run of consecutive victories and their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2018. Ireland strung together 17 wins in a row before they were ultimately felled by New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals. This record dates back to the 2022 Summer Tour, with the All Blacks starting and ending an incredible run of Irish form.
Farrell built Ireland into the best team in the world, with the men from the Emerald Isle occupying the number one slot in the World Rugby rankings for a year and three months (July 2022 to October 2023).
Farrell was subsequently been named World Rugby Coach of the Year, with the awards ceremony taking place last Sunday in Paris. Gatland believes that Farrell should be judged on what he has achieved with Ireland, and that people should look past the Rugby World Cup quarter-final curse.
“Even though Ireland lost their quarter-final to New Zealand, it was an epic match and it could have gone either way. And that is sport. Everyone always just looks at results rather than what teams have achieved and the progress they have made.
“Andy has got really good man-management skills, has huge experience in the game as a professional from a young age in rugby league and I have a huge amount of respect for him as a person and as a coach.”
Gatland is more than familiar with Farrell, and recognises how he has what it takes to lead the fabled ‘Army of Red’. The duo began as British and Irish Lions coaching colleagues, before lining up on opposite touchlines for Six Nations clashes earlier this year.
“He was a key member of my Lions coaching teams on the tours of 2013 and 2017 and I wanted him again for the South Africa tour.” Gatland said in his Telegraph column.
“Unfortunately I was told Ireland were not keen on releasing him because of the need to develop another fly-half behind Johnny Sexton – even though there was an opportunity for him to go to South Africa, who were in their World Cup pool, and get a close-up look at them over seven weeks.
“I passionately believe that all the home unions should make their coaches available for the Lions if asked. If nothing else it is a great opportunity to develop as a
ODDS TO REPLACE GATLAND: SKY BET
Alun Wyn Jones – 66/1
Graham Henry – 33/1
Stuart Lancaster – 33/1
Eddie Jones – 20/1
Mark McCall – 18/1
Wayne Pivac – 16/1
Scott Robertson – 16/1
Pat Lam – 16/1
Steve Borthwick – 12/1
Joe Schmidt – 12/1
Ronan O’Gara – 11/1
Gregor Townsend – 10/1
Andy Farrell – 1/3
Warren Gatland’s Dream Lions XV
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
14. Tommy Bowe (Ireland)
13. Jonathan Davies (Wales)
Garland wrote: “This was the most difficult selection for many obvious reasons. I know a lot of people will ask why I did not select Brian O’Driscoll here. If you were to pick a Lions team that included the tours when he was at his best, 2001 and 2005, then he would come into that calculation because he was an unbelievable player.
“But when I was head coach in 2013, his best days were behind him whereas Jonathan Davies was in his prime. He played in the series winning Test in 2013 and went on to become player of the series on the 2017 tour against the world champions New Zealand.”
12. Jamie Roberts (Wales)
11. George North (Wales)