Borthwick set for Lions coaching role

Steve Borthwick's rapid rise to the higher echelon of rugby coaching seems set to continue in Dublin today.
Steve BorthwickSteve Borthwick
Steve Borthwick

Just a year after being brought on board by England boss Eddie Jones as forwards specialist, former Preston Grasshoppers star and Red Rose skipper Borthwick - and his fellow ex-England international Andy Farrell - look likely to be among the assistant coaches announced for next summer’s British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

Current Wales interim head coach Rob Howley is also thought to be among Lions head coach Warren Gatland’s choices, while Wales’ record international points-scorer Neil Jenkins is leading contender for the role of kicking specialist.

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Gatland, though, might yet spring a surprise in terms of his attack coach options, having previously indicated that he could travel with two people heading up the Lions’ attacking strategy.

Gregor Townsend had been firmly in the frame, but he takes over from Vern Cotter as Scotland head coach at the end of this season and will lead their summer tour of Australia.

Rumours have been rife in the last few days that Gatland could bolster his staff with another big-hitter.

Former England and Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan is possibly on the radar, while Saracens’ trophy double-winning rugby director Mark McCall also has many admirers.

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Ryan is regarded as an innovative rugby thinker, establishing himself as England’s most successful sevens coach in history before taking charge of Fiji and leading them to world series glory and then capturing Olympic gold in Rio four months ago.

Gatland’s long-held view is that to have any realistic chance against world champions New Zealand, any opponent must be prepared to play, rather than contain, and it may be that Ryan or McCall fit the bill.

Technical and operational staff for the Lions’ first New Zealand trip since they suffered a painful Test series whitewash in 2005 are set to be announced early next month, with the squad itself due on April 19.

Borthwick, who won 57 Test caps and made almost 400 appearances for Bath and Saracens, worked with Jones during Japan’s memorable 2015 World Cup campaign that included them defeating South Africa, before joining him last December after Jones was appointed as England boss.

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England went unbeaten in 2016, claiming the Six Nations title in Grand Slam fashion, beating Australia three times Down Under and then winning all four autumn Tests.

Farrell, 41, enjoyed a glittering rugby league career before switching codes and winning eight England caps in 2007. He went on to become England defence coach, but left that role following last year’s dismal World Cup showing.

He was then appointed as Ireland’s defence coach, helping to oversee an away victory over South Africa and then a spectacular success against world champions New Zealand in Chicago, before a memorable autumn campaign concluded by Ireland defeating Australia.

Farrell was a key part of Gatland’s support team during the Lions’ 2-1 Test series victory over Australia in 2013, while Howley is also set to return for more, having been a member of the coaching staff Down Under three years ago and on the 2009 trip to South Africa.