Warren Gatland confirmed his coaching set up for the 2013 Lions tour of Australia in June at a press conference in Edinburgh this morning.
With Gatland already confirmed as Head Coach by Tour Manager Andy Irvine, and the names of Andy Farrell, Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree already widely known to the rugby public as his assistants, it was perhaps a slightly unsurprising conference, however it did give Gatland the chance to open up on some of the questions that their appointments created.
The most important question concerned the absence of Shaun Edwards from the party, widely regarded as one of the best defence coaches in the world, and a hugely popular figure on the 2009 tour, as well as having a close working relationship with Gatland through the Welsh set up, many wanted to know why he was not included.
Gatland chose to answer it by explained that it was the opportunity of working with Farrell that led to Edwards being left behind, and a desire to strike a balance between continuity from 2009 and freshness ahead of 2013.
â€œIt was a difficult decision to make, he is a world class coach. It was about trying to keep the continuity but also make sure there were some fresh faces.â€
â€œFrom a personal perspective Andy is someone I want to work with as well. Itâ€™s a bit of a selfish appointment, I have heard so much positive feedback about Andy from other coaches and players.â€
â€œIt helps to stimulate me and it is positive in terms of freshening up the coaching team.â€
In response, Farrell said:
â€œItâ€™s an honour and privilege to be asked to be a small part of the 125 year history of the Lions. I feel very humble to be involved, as a player or a coach, this is the ultimate.â€
A sentence that even the great Jim Telfer would be proud of.
Perhaps the most important, or at least the most statistically impressive, appointment was that of Scotland team doctor, Dr James Robson, as the Lions doctor.
This will be Robsonâ€™s sixth successive Lions tour, his unique knowledge of the rigours of this short intense tour on the playersâ€™ bodies will be invaluable, and he is always a valuable personality for the touring party as anyone who has seen his appearances on the tour dvdâ€™s will tell you.
Speaking of Robson, Andy Irvine said:
“The entire management team is delighted that James is on board once again, his extensive experience of all things ‘Lions’ is invaluable, and his knowledge of player management in terms of welfare and medical assistance is second to none.”
Wales meanwhile, having lost Head Coach Warren Gatland from their summer tour to Japan to the Lions, and now acting Head Coach Rob Howley, have named Robin McBryde in charge for the tour.
Full Lions Staff for the 2013 tour to Australia (additional staff may be added):
CEO: John Feehan
Tour Manager: Andy Irvine
Director of Tour Operations: Guy Richardson
Logistics Officer: Gerard Carmody
Baggage Master: Patrick â€˜Ralaâ€™ Oâ€™Reilly
Lawyer: Max Duthie
Head of Security: Neil Strang
Coaching and Conditioning
Head Coach: Warren Gatland
Assistant Coach: Rob Howley
Assistant Coach: Graham Rowntree
Assistant Coach: Andy Farrell
Head of Strength & Conditioning: Adam Beard
Fitness Coach: Paul Stridgeon
Head of Performance Analysis: Rhys Long
Performance Analyst: Rhodri Bown
Head of Medical: Dr James Robson
Physiotherapist: Prav Mathema
Physiotherapist: Phil Pask
Media and Communications
Head of Media & Communications: Greg Thomas
Media Manager: Dave Barton
Communications Manager: Christine Connolly