Warren Gatland assembles coaches for 2013 Lions tour

Welshman Rob Howley and English pair Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell join team

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The Independent Online

Warren Gatland today assembled an Anglo-Welsh coaching team in a bid to bring the Lions their first Test series triumph in 16 years.

Gatland, part of Ian McGeechan's  Lions management set-up in South Africa in 2009, is head coach for the  three-match series against Australia next June when his assistant coaches will be Welshman Rob Howley and English pair Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.

The New Zealander is taking a break from his role as Wales head coach to mastermind the tour and has opted not to include Shaun Edwards, the Wales defence coach and his right-hand man for more than a decade. Instead, Farrell will take charge of the Lions defensive system with Rowntree in charge of the forwards and Howley the backs.

Gatland will add technical coaches to the party including a specialist kicking coach with Dave Alred, who helped England win the 2003 World Cup in Australia, an obvious target.

Warren Gatland said: "I am delighted with today's appointments and confident that Rob, Graham, Andy and myself can come together quickly to face one of the hardest rugby challenges. Lions tours are unique as we have to mould together players from four different countries in an incredibly short space of time.

"We have no illusion as to the hard work required but we have spoken of the challenges and truly believe that as a coaching team we can provide the players with the support and environment needed for victory in Australia. We will also discuss over the coming weeks the requirement for any further technical assistance."

The last Test series triumph came in South Africa in 1997 and since then the Lions have gone down to Australia (2 1), New Zealand (3-0) and the Springboks (2-1)

Lions tour manager Andy Irvine is only too aware of that record but believes the backroom team will get the best out of the squad.

He said: "Today is an exciting day and the next chapter in the 2013 tour story.  The selection of the coaching staff is significant, this experienced trio have proven track records and we are delighted to have them on board. Importantly I believe we now have in the Tour management team, in the areas of coaching, logistics, media, performance analysis and medical, continuity from previous Tours especially 2009. 

"This is important as they all understand the challenges that lie ahead and the experience gained in South Africa will be essential as we head to Australia next year."

While Scotland will struggle to supply many players to the squad, their team doctor, James Robson, will head the Lions medical team  for the sixth tour in a row. Robson's quick action in South Africa in 1997 saved England centre Will Greenwood's life after he was heavily concussed in a midweek match in Bloemfontein.

Irvine said: "The entire management team are 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.

"I congratulate James on this amazing personal milestone of six Tours and know that once again he will give everything to ensure the players are ready for the onfield challenges."