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Andy Farrell gets the green light from IRFU to lead Lions on next tour

The IRFU won't stand in Andy Farrell's way if the Lions come calling. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE


Andy Farrell will have the “full support” of the IRFU if he is approached to be head coach for the next Lions tour.

Farrell is the leading candidate to succeed Warren Gatland for the tour of Australia in 2025 having guided Ireland to No 1 in the world rankings after an historic tour series win over New Zealand, as well as victories against South Africa and Australia last year.

Preparations for the tour were discussed at a Lions board meeting in Dublin on Tuesday and IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts confirmed that the 47-year-old Englishman would have the governing body’s backing if he were offered the job.

It will come as welcome news for the Lions board as the availability of head coaches of the home unions has not always been guaranteed.

Eddie Jones, after his first year as England head coach in 2016, ruled himself out of contention for the 2017 tour of New Zealand despite winning the Grand Slam and defeating Australia 3-0 on England’s summer tour.

Ian Ritchie, the RFU chief executive at the time, also confirmed he had wanted Jones’s focus on building towards the 2019 World Cup.

Farrell was not available for the tour of South Africa in 2021, but Potts confirmed he would be given the green light this time.

The appointment is likely to be made in the next 18 months and the IRFU would have a contingency plan should Farrell, who signed a two-year extension with the IRFU before the tour to New Zealand in July, succeed Gatland, having worked as his defence coach on the tours of Australia in 2013 and New Zealand four years later.

“I think if Andy Farrell or any Irish coach was to have the honour of being selected as head coach for the Lions, Irish rugby would, of course, be honoured,” Potts said.

“I think any coach or assistant coach or player to be stepping up to the Lions would be seen as a good thing for Irish rugby.

“We’ve had people – logistics people, administrative people – and they’re asked, and we say, ‘Of course’. It’s never a question of saying that they can’t do it.

“The Lions are the pinnacle of our sport. If it’s Andy Farrell or anybody else, of course, they’d have our blessing and full support, and it would be an honour for us to have somebody associated with the Lions. I’m sure this is not a topic that’s at the forefront of Andy’s mind at this point.”

Should it happen, Farrell would become the first Ireland head coach to be involved with the Lions since Eddie O’Sullivan was part of Clive Woodward’s coaching team for the 2005 tour of New Zealand.

Despite interest from Jones in bringing Farrell, defence coach under former England head coach Stuart Lancaster, back to Twickenham in 2018, Potts said that the negotiations over the decision to extend his contract had been straightforward. The extension effectively ruled Farrell out of the running to be considered as England head coach when Jones was sacked in December, although it seems he had already indicated he was keen to stay on with Ireland.

“I think it was an easy decision to invite Andy to extend his contract well before the tour to New Zealand,” Potts said. “He’s a remarkable coach. The impact he has on all of the player groups across the island and on the younger players is phenomenal.

“We’re very lucky to have him. We didn’t ever have to think about doing this, and we were delighted he accepted.”

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