Rugby Union: Lions to insist on formal means

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IAN McGEECHAN will after all have to undergo a formal interview next month before being appointed coach of the 1992 British Isles team in New Zealand. The original, enlightened intention had been to build the Lions tour around the chosen man instead of the past practice of picking him from a list of nominees.

Ultimately, though, this proved too radical a departure for rugby's endemic committee system. So although McGeechan, the Scotland coach, is the best man for the job and remains strong favourite he will have to submit himself to scrutiny along with the likes of England's Dick Best and Alan Davies of Wales before the Committee of Home Unions in London on 15 August.

The morning will be devoted to the coach and his assistant, Best being front-runner to accompany McGeechan, followed in the afternoon by the manager, for which Noel Murphy of Ireland and Geoff Cooke of England are among the candidates. The lucky winners' assignment is a 13-match tour in May, June and July that includes Tests in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.

The temporary block on McGeechan was erected when administrators demurred at the idea of rubber-stamping any appointee, no matter how distinguished or obvious. But despite England's consecutive Grand Slams, the Scot remains the outstanding contender - as any of England's 1989 Lions would confirm.

Then, McGeechan's team, comprising mainly Englishmen and Scotsmen, achieved a 2-1 series victory over Australia, and his recent experience of the All Blacks through coaching the world team who played three Tests in New Zealand three months ago is a further recommendation.

The decision on the manager will perforce be governed by the nationality of the coaches. If Best were McGeechan's assistant and, as now seems likely, Will Carling were captain, Cooke's tour prospects would be slim - which would leave Murphy, Ireland's manager in NZ last month, or possibly Robert Norster of Wales the best placed alternatives.

Whatever happens, the power would rest with McGeechan, whose assumption of outright authority in 1989 steadily reduced the role of the then-manager, Clive Rowlands, to speech-making and administration.

Meanwhile, the chance to prepare for the World Sevens at Murrayfield next April by playing in the world's biggest sevens gathering in Hong Kong in March has been declined by England, the Rugby Football Union having decisively voted against participation. Scotland and Wales have accepted.