Irvine - Lions job wide open
Andy Irvine says Lions bosses have "a completely open mind" on who should be head coach for the 2013 tour to Australia.
Last Updated: 28/11/11 6:25pm
British and Irish Lions bosses have "a completely open mind" on who should be head coach for the 2013 tour to Australia, according to Andy Irvine.
The former Scotland and Lions full-back will manage the 10-game trip, which begins with a fixture against the Barbarians in Hong Kong and features three Tests against the Wallabies.
The identity of the head coach is set to be revealed next April or May, with Irvine hoping that Wales head coach Warren Gatland, Ireland chief Declan Kidney and Scotland's Andy Robinson will all be available.
Sir Ian McGeechan, currently in charge of Bath and the most successful coach in Lions history, could also be among the contenders.
"We have a completely open mind for the 2013 tour on who it (coach) will be," said Irvine, speaking on Monday at the launch of the 2013 tour fixture schedule in Cardiff.
"Whoever the coach is will be taking a year out. He does not have to come from the home unions and we could look worldwide, but ideally the head coach will come from a union associated with the Lions.
"Ian McGeechan has not ruled himself out entirely. He did indicate that 2009 would be his last tour, but he has said nothing definitive and he has to be an option.
"It is such a highly-prized job that we will not be short of candidates. To play for the Lions is the ultimate, and to coach the Lions is pretty close to that.
"We would like Declan Kidney, Andy Robinson and Warren Gatland to all be available. I think all three would be available if required."
The Lions last visited Australia 10 years ago, losing the Test series 2-1 under Graham Henry's direction, while they suffered similar agony in South Africa on the 2009 trip, being edged out during three titanic games.
Irvine added: "2009 was a successful tour on and off the field and a great credit to all involved.
"They were unlucky with injuries in the second Test and outscored South Africa on tries.
"Continuity is an important thing, and with a such a tight schedule it does help if the coaches were involved in the previous tour, but there is also a view that it is good to spread the Lions experience a bit.
"The Lions coach will not be involved in the 2013 Six Nations. He will need to be free of international commitments so he can look at players from the four home unions and be at different matches, and that would include the 2012 autumn series.
"We are starting the 2013 trip in Hong Kong, and it is about spreading the gospel.
"We would like all the squad to be in Hong Kong, but it may be that some players go straight to Perth to prepare for our first match in Australia. That will be a decision for the head coach."
The Lions will play Tests in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, plus six other matches on Australian soil.
After the Barbarians, they will face the Western Force in Perth on June 5 before tackling Queensland Reds in Brisbane three days later.
A combined New South Wales-Queensland country team provide the opposition in Newcastle on June 12, followed by matches against the NSW Waratahs and ACT Brumbies in the following six days.
The first Test takes place at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on June 22, and after meeting the Melbourne Rebels three days later, it will be back-to-back Tests, ending on July 6.
"The Lions tour here in 2001 was an extraordinary event and one which provided significant economic benefit to those cities which hosted major matches," Australian Rugby Union chief John O'Neill said.
"A Lions tour is a massive occasion. Behind the Rugby World Cup it is the most engaging, high-profile and popular event our game can showcase."
And Lions chairman Gerald Davies added: "With the latest Rugby World Cup tournament completed, a major focus for the rugby world is now the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013.
"Lions tours are hugely popular, and outside of Rugby World Cup represent one of the game's major showpieces, with global media coverage and ticket sales testament to their popularity."