Andy Farrell will have the “full support” of the Irish Rugby Football Union if he is approached to be head coach for the next British and Irish 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 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 Kevin Potts, the IRFU chief executive, 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 the summer tour.
Ian Ritchie, the Rugby Football Union chief executive at the time, also confirmed that he had wanted Jones to remain with England to focus on building towards the 2019 World Cup.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell is expected to lead the Lions in Australia in 2025.Credit:Getty
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.
Wales coach Warren Gatland was at the helm for the Lions in 2013, 2017 and 2021.Credit:Getty
“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, who was defence coach under former England head coach Stuart Lancaster, back to Twickenham in 2018, Potts said the negotiations over the decision to extend his contract had been straightforward.
The extension effectively ruled Farrell out of consideration to be considered as England head coach when Jones was sacked in December, although it seems Farrell 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 group 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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