The World Cup is over, but just when you thought it was safe to forget about global rugby for a while they go and release the fixtures and dates for the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour.
Lions Tour Manager Andy Irvine revealed the fixtures at an event in Cardiff and declared that the selection of the Lions Head Coach and the rest of their backroom staff would be announced in April or May. He also went on to muddy the waters, claiming “It is such a highly-prized job that we will not be short of candidates. To play for the Lions is the ultimate, and to coach the Lions is pretty close to that. We would like Declan Kidney, Andy Robinson and Warren Gatland to all be available. I think all three would be available if required.”
Whoever takes charge will have to be someone with a sufficiently large name to draw attention to this event, particularly after the amount of publicity and television coverage the World Cup finals drew. They will of course not struggle to find sponsors or stations willing to be part of the Lions three ring circus (HSBC are still along for the ride) but after seeing England being publicly disgraced at the World Cup, Scotland doing poorly and Ireland and Wales drawing plaudits something needs to be done to tie these groups together.
This could involve the consideration of heavyweight names. Graham Henry has said the likeliness of him coaching in a test environment next year is “zero out of ten”. But what about the year after? It would mean he only briefly has to leave his hemisphere, travelling as an advisor would, before jetting back down under. He certainly could redeem himself after his last term as the Lions coach in Australia…
Of course the other option is to keep some stability within the Lions selections. Irvine said “continuity is an important thing, and with such a tight schedule it does help if the coaches were involved in the previous tour” before musing that “there is also a view that it is good to spread the Lions experience a bit.”
This could leave the door open for Sir ian McGeechan to reprise his favourite role or at least for Warren Gatland to step up from forwards coach to director of all rugby issues.
It may seem early to consider coaching, but with Lions chairman Gerald Davies admitting “Lions tours are hugely popular and outside of the Rugby World Cup [they] represent one of the game’s major showpieces, with global media coverage and ticket sales testament to their popularity” you know that they are making a decision that will get people excited and thinking about flashbulbs. They will definitely be considering candidates right now.
Here are the official dates and host towns for the Lions tour to Australia 2013:
Sat June 1 – The British & Irish Lions v Barbarians (Hong Kong)
Wed June 5 – The British & Irish Lions v Western Force (Perth)
Sat June – The British & Irish Lions v Queensland Reds (Brisbane)
Wed June 12 – The British & Irish Lions v Combined NSW & Queensland Country (Newcastle)
Sat June 15 – The British & Irish Lions v NSW Waratahs (Sydney)
Tue June 18 – The British & Irish Lions v ACT Brumbies (Canberra)
Sat June 22 – The British & Irish Lions v Australia (Brisbane)
Tue June 25 – The British & Irish Lions v Melbourne Rebels (Melbourne)
Sat June 29 – The British & Irish Lions v Australia (Melbourne)
Sat July 6 – The British & Irish Lions v Australia (Sydney)