Following the frenetic finish to this year’s Six Nations championship, victorious Ireland boss Joe Schmidt is the 2/1 second-favourite to coach the 2017 British and Irish Lions, a price punters must eschew in favour of the 6/4 about market principle, England’s Stuart Lancaster, taking charge of the tour.
The last sitting Irish coach to take charge of a Lions tour was Syd Millar, back in 1980 for the unsuccessful trip to South Africa.
There’s been plenty of opportunities to bestow the highest accolade in northern hemisphere rugby on Ireland’s bosses since, yet the powers that be have consistently plumped for men connected with the trio of mainland teams over the past three decades.
Declan Kidney would probably hold his hands up – despite leading Ireland to their first Grand Slam since 1948 in 2009 – and admit that Warren Gatland’s pair of whitewashes since taking over as Wales boss earned him the right to take charge of the 2013 tour of Australia.
However, Eddie O’Sullivan’s failure to land the job for the 2009 trip to South Africa – in favour of veteran former Scots coach Ian McGeechan – was somewhat more puzzling.
While it is true that O’Sullivan had resigned as national team coach in 2008, following a poor Six Nations campaign, the Cork man had enjoyed huge success with the constantly underachieving Irish, who won three Triple Crowns during his tenure.
O’Sullivan was also part of Clive Woodward’s backroom staff for the disastrous 2005 tour of New Zealand, which may well have counted against him four years later.
What looks likely to count against Schmidt when the Lions’ committee sit down to decide who’ll lead the charge against the All Blacks is his Six Nations and World Cup achievements with Ireland, in relation to Lancaster’s with England, between now and 2017.
The Red Rose are clearly the coming force in northern hemisphere rugby, as noted on these pages recently, and Lancaster has plenty of time to accrue trinkets before a decision is made regarding the next uber-jolly to Kiwi country.
Ireland may have taken the Six Nations title this year, but having lost talisman Brian O’Driscoll to retirement after the win in France, the likes of Paul O’Connell, Gordon D’Arcy and Mike Ross – all hugely influential veterans – are likely to follow soon.
That will leave colossal gaps for Schmidt to fill and as none of his young players coming through have shown anything like the quality the aforementioned quartet possess, it’s difficult to see the boys in green adding another title to their scant collection any time soon.
Wales coach Gatland can be backed at 4/1 to take the reins once more against his home nation after a stop-start campaign from the Red Dragons, whose Kiwi coach’s ‘Warrenball’ tactics were called into question repeatedly.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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