Andy Farrell will have the “full support” of the Irish Rugby Football Union if he is approached to be head coach for the next British and Irish Lions tour.
Farrell is currently the leading candidate to succeed Warren Gatland as head coach for the tour of Australia in 2025, having guided Ireland to No 1 in the world rankings after an historic tour series victory over New Zealand as well as victories over South Africa and Australia last year.
Preparations for the tour were discussed at Lions board meeting in Dublin on Tuesday and IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts confirmed to Telegraph Sport that the governing body board the 47-year-old Englishman would have the governing body’s backing if he were offered the job.
It will come as welcome news for the Lions board, given that the availability of head coaches of the home unions has not always been guaranteed. Eddie Jones, after his first year as England head coach in 2016 ruled himself out of contention for the tour of New Zealand the following year despite winning the Grand Slam and defeating Australia 3-0 on the summer tour.
Ian Ritchie, the RFU chief executive at the time, also confirmed that he had wanted Jones to remain with England to focus on building towards the 2019 World Cup.
Farrell was not available to take up a position on Gatland’s coaching team for the tour of South Africa in 2021, but Potts confirmed he would be given the green light to do so if he is offered the top job this time.
‘It would be an honour for us to have somebody associated with the Lions’
The appointment for the Australia tour is likely to be made within the next 18 months, and the IRFU would have a contingency plan in place should Farrell, who signed a two-year extension with the IRFU before the tour to New Zealand in July, succeed Gatland having worked as his defence coach on the tours of Australia in 2013 and New Zealand four years later.
“I think if Andy Farrell or any Irish coach was to have the honour of being selected as head coach for the Lions, Irish rugby would of course be honoured,” Potts said. “I think any coach or assistant coach or player to be stepping up to Lions would be seen as a good thing for Irish rugby.
“We’ve had people – logistics people, administrative people, and they’re asked, and we say, ‘of course’, it’s never a question of saying that they can’t do it. The Lions are the pinnacle of our sport.
“And if Andy Farrell or anybody else, of course, they’d have our blessing and full support and it would be an honour for us to have somebody associated with the Lions. I’m sure this is not a topic that’s at the forefront of Andy’s mind at this point.”
Farrell would become the first Ireland head coach to be involved with the Lions since Eddie O’Sullivan was part of Sir Clive Woodward’s sizable coaching team for the tour of New Zealand in 2005.
Despite interest from Jones in bringing Farrell, who was defence coach under former England head coach Stuart Lancaster, back to Twickenham in 2018, Potts said the negotiations over the decision to extend his contract had been straightforward.
The two-year extension effectively ruled Farrell out of consideration to be considered to succeed Jones as England head coach when he was sacked last December, although it seems Farrell had already indicated he was keen to stay on with Ireland.
“I think it was an easy decision to invite Andy to extend his contract well before the tour to New Zealand,” Potts added. “He’s a remarkable coach. Obviously, he’s world class and the impact he has on all of the player group across the island and on the younger players is phenomenal. He’s just a really decent world-class coach, we’re very lucky to have him. We didn’t even ever have to think about doing this and we were delighted he accepted.”