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Leinster's Lancaster would be an ideal addition for the Lions next year

The 50-year-old has enjoyed helping young players like Ryan Baird and Harry Byrne to develop.

STUART LANCASTER, THE Leinster senior coach, has indicated that he would be open to the prospect of coaching on the Lions tour in South Africa next year.

Warren Gatland will lead the tourists for the third time as head coach but has not yet announced his support staff for the trip to take on Rassie Erasmus’ World Cup winners.

Rob Howley has been the Lions’ attack coach on the last three tours, as well as previously working under Gatland in the same role for Wales, but he has been out of rugby since being sent home from last year’s World Cup.

stuart-lancaster-celebrates-after-winning-the-guinness-pro14-final Lancaster has had real success with Leinster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Howley was subsequently banned from the game for 18 months, half of that suspended, for breaching betting rules.

As such, the Lions’ attack coach position appears looks set to be filled by someone new, while there may also be a new defence coach, with Andy Farrell – who did the 2013 and 2017 tours – now the head coach of Ireland.

50-year-old Lancaster has never toured with the Lions but enjoys a superb reputation as an attack and defence coach having been a central part Leinster’s high-quality performances in recent years as the province’s senior coach, overseeing both sides of the game.

It will be fascinating to see if Gatland makes an approach to the Englishman to get involved in next year’s tour to South Africa.

“It’s a long way off, isn’t it?’ said Lancaster when asked about the prospect of linking up with the Lions. “It just feels like so far away, you just sit there thinking, ‘Oh, the Lions’.

“I think everyone as a coach would ultimately want to test themselves at the highest level, but I’ve never personally chatted to anyone about it.

“So we’ll see, there’s been fantastic coaching teams that have gone in the past. I’m sure they would all be keen to put their hands up again in the future.

“But let’s hope we’re in a position, probably this time next year, where we’re really actively debating who is going on that tour and it’s going to be a fantastic tour, and everything that we hoped for will happen.

“But equally who is to know how long this is going to go on. It’s just so hard to look too far ahead. My mind is very much focused on do what’s right for today to help society get through tomorrow.”

ryan-baird-celebrates Ryan Baird is one of the promising young players Lancaster is working with in Leinster. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Lancaster is at home in Leeds amidst the lockdown but remains very focused on ensuring Leinster come out of the current situation in good shape.

Rugby being on pause has meant much of Lancaster’s excellent work with the province’s young players is also on hold, but the 2019/20 season has been a real breakthrough campaign for several of them anyway, with 20-year-old Ryan Baird and 21-year-old Harry Byrne leading the charge.


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Second row Baird and out-half Byrne both trained with Farrell’s senior Ireland squad this year during their Six Nations campaign, while they have also delivered promising performances for their province.

Lancaster is excited that there is still more to come from the academy duo and others.

“Andy Farrell did a great job by bringing them into camp,” said Lancaster. “It’s something that we did with England – bringing in young players who had the potential. They’re not the finished product and everyone would know that at the time.

“They’re a really good example of the strength of the Irish system in that they haven’t been rushed. So, they’ve gone through school, then into the sub-academy, through to Ireland U20s and now they’re stepping into the senior team.

“It’s not by accident that when they come onto the scene in a Pro14 game, for example, that they can deliver because they’ve trained with us for nearly enough two years now and they wait patiently.

“It’s not just those two. There are so many examples of young players who have broken into the team this year. One of the real strengths of the system actually is by having so many internationals players in the Leinster team and because of the World Cup and because of the Six Nations, this year more so than any, these younger lads have had opportunities.

“Those two in particular have really shown, but I think everyone knew their potential probably two or three years ago, I would imagine.

harry-byrne-scores-a-try Harry Byrne has impressed at out-half. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I think both have got tremendous potential. I think Ryan is a tremendous athlete. He’s a real student of the game, a student of the lineout. I think he really wants to grow himself in that area and he’d be certainly focusing on that in this window, knowing him.

“Harry, again, would be a real student of the game, brought up with [his brother] Ross debating it I’m sure every day. He’s got a fantastic all-round skillet: kicking game, passing game and ability to play flat at the line. Physically obviously, there’s still room for development. I’m sure he’ll be focusing on that in this window.

“Overall, for all the young players it’s the competition at Leinster that breeds development, I think.

“When you’re putting that level of squeeze on in training and I guess the quality of the players the likes of Harry and Ryan come up against, I think hopefully it should create little diamonds out of them and it certainly exposes any weaknesses – that’s for sure.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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