'Where it stands at this moment...': Andy Farrell addresses rumours he will join Lions next month
Ireland boss Andy Farrell has given an update on where things stand regarding him and a possible trip to South Africa next month to join up with the Lions ahead of their three-game Test series versus the Springboks which starts on July 24 in Cape Town.
The defence coach on the 2013 and 2017 tours to Australia and New Zealand has been touted as a mid-tour arrival once his commitments with Ireland’s summer series is over. Ireland host Japan on July 3 and the USA on July 10 in Dublin, matches that Farrell has announced a 37-strong squad for that will be skippered by Lions omission James Ryan.
Farrell has been strongly tipped to be chosen as one of Gatland’s assistants for the tour in South Africa. However, when it came to the mid-April announcement of the coaching staff, it emerged that Farrell has declared himself unavailable.
At that time, Ireland were on course to embark on a July tour to Fiji. However, that trip was cancelled on April 30 following a virus outbreak in the Pacific Islands and it left Ireland needing to make alternative arrangements.
With the plan now for just two home games in Dublin, it has generated speculation that Farrell could potentially arrive on the Lions prior to their midweek July 14 match in Cape Town versus South Africa A, ten days prior to the first Test game against the Springboks.
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Gatland is on record since April that an extra spot is available in his backroom staff to be filled in whichever way he feels and while there was apparently a lukewarm reaction from the Lions in recent weeks following the rebooting of speculation that Farrell could tour, the man himself delivered on update on the situation during his post-Ireland squad announcement.
“I have spoken to Warren a couple of times,” admitted Farrell when asked by Irish media whether him joining up with the Lions was potentially a runner. “I’m more than happy obviously to help out because it is an unbelievable honour to be asked or to be involved in the Lions. I’m sure we are all looking forward to watching the series.
“Where it stands at this moment in time is that Warren has left a spot open and he wants to see how the workload goes in the first week or so of the camps and if he needs help in and around all that then I am happy to help but the experience that they have got there within the coaching staff is top class, the experience that they have got in the management group is top class as well so I am sure they will be fine.”
Farrell excluded seasoned names such as Johnny Sexton, a Lions tourist in 2013 and 2017, Cian Healy, a Lions pick in 2013, and Keith Earls, the youngest Lions in the 2009 trip, from his Ireland squad, explaining they would benefit more from a longer pre-season given that Ireland are facing a 2021/22 season that will culminate in a tour of New Zealand.
However, their Ireland omission doesn’t rule them out of possible call-ups from the Lions if needed. “Definitely not,” said Farrell when quizzed whether non-selection for Ireland makes them off-limits for the Lions.
“Warren is certainly aware of all this and Keith is certainly in that bracket as well because he was playing some outstanding rugby as well during the Six Nations so I am sure he is on the radar as well. Look, these lads are aware of the situation. They will be training in the background and keeping themselves fit and Warren knows exactly what they are about.”
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