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Andy Farrell explains what could go wrong in picking his Lions coaches

By PA
Andy Farrell/ PA

Andy Farrell described his appointment as British and Irish Lions head coach as “pretty magical” but has ruled out a repeat of the moment that made his name with the tourists.

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Farrell takes charge of the Lions for the first time when they visit Australia in 2025 having been a part of Warren Gatland’s management team in 2013 and 2017.

The 48-year-old Englishman was chosen by a committee comprising of Brian O’Driscoll, Ieuan Evans, Nigel Redman and Sir Ian McGeechan, who spent six months on the selection process before unanimously agreeing on the right candidate.

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Farrell, the current World Rugby coach of the year, has been rewarded for guiding Ireland to a Grand Slam, an historic 2-1 series victory in New Zealand and to the summit of the global rankings.

“This means the world to me. To be thought of as a candidate for the head coach’s role is pretty special, but to be chosen is pretty magical,” Farrell said.

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“For those of us who have been lucky enough to go on a Lions tour, or go as a supporter, knowing what the Lions stand for, we all know how special this is.

“So for me to be chosen as the head coach, it’s beyond words to be honest.”

Farrell insists that Gatland “took a big punt on me in 2013” when he was taken to Australia as a rookie assistant coach and oversaw the defence for a 2-1 series victory.

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But the dual code international also provided one of the highlights of the tour by giving his famous ‘hurt arena’ speech before the Sydney decider, imploring his players to reach new levels “because there is no tomorrow”.

The Wallabies were subsequently crushed 41-16 and Farrell’s Lions reputation was made.

“I’ve probably grown up a little bit since then – I’m probably not as dramatic!” Farrell said.

“There won’t be any film star roles from me, just being myself and making sure that the team comes first.

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“My coaching style is what it is. It’s me being myself. It’s me trying to put across to the talented group of players that I will be working with that they can express themselves.

“It’s 100 per cent that the talent will be there so I need to work to make sure I let that talent flourish.”

Farrell begins his role in December having been given the green light by Ireland to take charge of the Lions for their 10-fixture trip that culminates in a three-Test series against the Wallabies.

He has been given a sabbatical by the Irish Rugby Football Union to focus purely on the Lions, meaning he will miss next year’s Six Nations.

One of his most important tasks will be assembling his coaching team, with Paul O’Connell and Gregor Townsend likely to be given prominent roles.

“I’m in no rush at all. There’s a long way to go isn’t there? There’s a lot of coaches just starting in new roles,” Farrell said.

“Some people will get better as coaches under pressure, so I’ll just sit back and watch.

“You’ve got to have the right people on the bus. It’s about excellence as well and the right balance between the coaching staff in general. If you have all the personalities being the same, it won’t feel right.

“If you don’t get the people right that technically and tactically can deliver to these superb players, that won’t feel right either. We’ve got to do the right thing by the team.”

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finn 19 minutes ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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