The Lions face an absurd challenge this summer in New Zealand. In 16 tests away to the All Blacks, they have won just once. Added to that is the fact that the tour begins the day after the Pro 12 and Premiership finals, meaning preparation will be nowhere near where it needs to be. Oh, and this gang of All Blacks may be their best ever.
These factors would make it seem quite surprising that Joe Schmidt isn't involved in the coaching set-up, given that he is the only coach to plot victory against them across their previous 19 tests.
Today's Sunday Times has a really interesting feature consisting of a panel discussion involving Stuart Barnes, Sean Fitzpatrick, and Stephen Jones, chaired by Peter O'Reilly. They print a transcript which touches on a wide range of topics, one of which is the identity of the Lions Head Coach.
Stuart Barnes explains that, while Schmidt is a better coach, Gatland is a better fit for the Lions. Here's an excerpt:
Joe Schmidt is a better coach than Warren Gatland but the Lions is not about who is the best coach. The victory [Ireland's against New Zealand] wasn't forged in a couple of weeks and with a skeletal gameplan that everybody understands. And that's what the Lions have to do.
Gatland understands this. This win in Chicago was forged over a long period of time. I talked to players like Paul O'Connell and he said: "It's so tough for players when they first work with Joe Schmidt to understand the amount of detail he throws out". Some are lost along the way.
Now, with the Lions you just can't do that. I don't see how the way Joe Schmidt coaches can work with the Lions.
It's an interesting theory by Barnes.
If you are looking for evidence as to why Schmidt is so obsessed with detail and small margins, read this story on the small change in training that led to Ireland finally casting off the All Black yolk last weekend.
[The Sunday Times]