Andy Farrell puts Ireland first amid Lions speculation

Andy Farrell hopes to have greater clarity on a potential coaching role with the British and Irish Lions by the end of the month but insists his Ireland commitments will take precedence.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 2:21 pm
Wigan legend Andy Farrell

Lions head coach Warren Gatland is reported to be assembling a formidable coaching line-up for this summer's series in South Africa, including Ireland boss Farrell and Scotland coach Gregor Townsend.

Uncertainty still surrounds that trip due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, while a possible Irish tour of the Pacific islands is also up in the air.

Wigan Warriors legend Farrell, whose immediate focus is on his side's two remaining Guinness Six Nations games, was coy about the situation as he awaits further information.

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"I am as updated as you are on all the different ramifications that are being bounced about from day to day," said the 45-year-old, who was Lions defence coach on the 2013 tour of Australia.

"There's nothing I know of that's going on at this moment in time that gives any clarity on the situation whatsoever.

"We don't know whether there is a Lions tour going on, we don't know whether there is a southern tour going on with Ireland.

"I hear that hopefully by the end of the month we will know something more concrete."

The Lions are scheduled to play a warm-up match against Japan in Edinburgh on June 26 before travelling to South Africa.

Tests against the Springboks are due to be played on July 24 and August 7 in Johannesburg, either side of a match in Cape Town on July 31.

Asked if he would like to be involved, Farrell replied: "Like I've always said - and it's the truth - I will always do the right thing for Irish rugby.

"At this moment in time, we don't know whether one tour's going ahead, whether both tours are going ahead, or vice versa.

"We've no clarity and no certainty on anything yet, so I suppose we will have to wait until the end of the month."

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, New Zealander Gatland is lining up Farrell, Townsend and England's defence coach John Mitchell for his management team.

Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick, Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree and Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins could also be involved.

Farrell would require permission from the Irish Rugby Football Union to join Gatland's staff.

He is unsure whether an Ireland tour going ahead would definitely rule him out of Lions involvement.

"Again, we don't know what that tour looks like yet," he said of Ireland's possible trip to the southern hemisphere.

"I don't know what's happening as far as the Lions is concerned regarding warm-up matches.

"I suppose the fallout from those warm-up matches is going to have different ramifications on what happens with the rest of world rugby and who's available for tours, so we don't know what the map looks like."

Ireland are currently preparing to face Scotland on March 14, before completing their Six Nations campaign at home to England six days later.

Farrell has this week been boosted by captain Johnny Sexton and flanker Peter O'Mahony agreeing contract extensions with the IRFU.

"It's fantastic news. Two very important pieces of our jigsaw going forward for all sorts of reasons," said Farrell.

"They are delighted to get their contracts over the line and settle their futures, and we're even more so delighted for them."