Warren Gatland says Steve Tandy’s legs were shaking when the New Zealander phoned to appoint him Lions defence coach for the tour to South Africa.
On Tuesday, Gatland named four assistant coaches for the summer tour to take on the world champion Springboks in their backyard, with Tandy’s boss in the Scotland camp, Gregor Townsend, named attack coach.
Gatland also named Robin McBryde forwards coach, while Neil Jenkins will go on his fourth tour as kicking coach of the British and Irish side.
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“When I rang him I got more of a kick out of it and a buzz out of it than he did,” Gatland told Sky Sports News about his call with Tandy. “He just said, ‘It’s unbelievable for me, my legs are shaking at the moment’.
“I rang Robin McBryde as well and he was very, very similar. He said, ‘I’m walking around the apartment at the moment and I don’t know what to do with myself’.
“I was thrilled with their response about how excited they are to be a part of what hopefully is going to be an incredibly special tour.”
The 57-year-old revealed he first spoke to Townsend “a number of months ago” about the possibility of joining the Lions when he was in Edinburgh on a location scouting mission for the pre-tour warm-up Test against Japan at Murrayfield.
On Jenkins, who has been on two tours as a player as well as three tours as a coach so far, Gatland said: “He tries to come under the radar in terms of not pushing himself forward too much, but he’s an outstanding coach.
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“He’s always good to sound things off and I think he’s an outstanding selector as well. I’ve just got so much time for him and respect for the job that he’s done.”
Gatland had planned to take Andy Farrell, Steve Borthwick and Graham Rowntree to South Africa, but all three were forced to withdraw, with Farrell taking charge of Ireland’s Test matches in June.
However, Gatland did not rule out the possibility of adding another assistant coach to the mix, and hinted that could mean someone like Farrell joining midway through the tour once his Ireland commitments have been met.
“Yeah, possibly,” Gatland said when asked if Paul O’Connell was part of his thinking. “That’s a potential, or maybe an Andy Farrell or something like that.
“[Farrell’s] commitment is to Ireland, and you fully understand that.
“It’s just trying to be flexible at the moment and whether we do add someone. It could be someone coming in during the tour or something like that.”
There is no English coach on the team, but Gatland said his assistants were selected based on the “best possible fit” rather than making sure representation was equal.
“People are trying to make a thing about that,” he said. “It’s not about where you’ve come from, it’s just trying to get the best possible fit.
“Everyone’s talking about an English snub but no one complained too loudly last time when there wasn’t any Scottish coaches involved. It’s about just trying to pick the best people to do the job.”
England finished fifth in this year’s Six Nations, and though Gatland said some players performed below their standards, he said various potential Lions – including the Saracens contingent operating in the Championship – had “credit” for past achievements to take into consideration.
“Some of the players didn’t play as well as I probably would have liked during the Six Nations,” he said.
“When you’re looking at players you look at a bit of history, you look at experience and what they’ve done in the past – that counts.
“There’s a number of those experienced players who have got credit because of what they’ve achieved.”
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