Steve Borthwick will not be on Andy Farrell’s Lions staff – but other England coaches can be

Steve Borthwick before England's third-place play-off at the Rugby World Cup in France
Steve Borthwick before England's third-place play-off at the Rugby World Cup in France

Steve Borthwick will not be available for consideration for the British and Irish Lions coaching team but his England assistants will be given the green light if they are selected by Andy Farrell, who will on Thursday be confirmed as the head coach for the tour of Australia next year.

Farrell, the Ireland head coach, will become the first Englishman to take charge of the Lions since Sir Clive Woodward on the 2005 tour of New Zealand. Farrell will be presented at a press conference in London on Thursday.

Among his first tasks will be to assemble a coaching team for the nine-game tour that includes three Test matches against the Wallabies in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in July and August next year.

It is understood that Borthwick, who was forwards coach for the Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017, has ruled himself out of contention in order to focus on the England team’s development at the start of a four-year World Cup cycle.

Borthwick’s lieutenants, including Felix Jones, who has just joined the England coaching team having been part of two World Cup-winning campaigns with South Africa, and attack coach Richard Wigglesworth, however, will be allowed to tour if Farrell is keen to take them.

Borthwick is thought to see the tour as a brilliant opportunity for his young coaching team to develop their skills, if required by Farrell, who is likely to want a blend of coaching input from each of the four home unions.

Gregor Townsend, the Scotland head coach, is also likely to be involved as part of the Lions coaching team having played an influential role on the 2021 tour.

England attack coach Richard Wigglesworth during a training session at Pennyhill Park
Richard Wigglesworth will be permitted to join Andy Farrell's Lions staff if selected - Getty Images/Steve Bardens

Farrell cut his teeth as a Lions assistant under Warren Gatland on the tours of Australia in 2013 and again in New Zealand four years later before succeeding Joe Schmidt as Ireland head coach following the 2019 World Cup.

The Irish Rugby Football Union did not allow Farrell to be considered for the 2021 tour of South Africa as it came so soon into his tenure as Ireland head coach, although the governing body confirmed in January last year they had given him the green light to be considered for the head coach job for the Australia tour.

A Lions selection committee was established, and Farrell was the outstanding candidate, having guided Ireland to No 1 in the world rankings last year as well as winning the Grand Slam and being named World Rugby coach of the year. Gatland disclosed in October he had not put his name forward and backed Farrell as his successor.

It seems Borthwick has taken a personal decision to rule himself out of contention given the rebuilding job required following the World Cup in France. Eddie Jones, Borthwick’s predecessor, in contrast had been keen to be considered for the head coach role for the tour of 2021, when he was given a two-year extension to his contract in 2017.

Simon Easterby is expected to act as interim Ireland head coach during Farrell’s sabbatical, which could start as early as the autumn Test series following Ireland’s tour of South Africa this summer.

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