Pressure mounting for Lions' coaching job

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    03 Jun 2016     Getty Images

Reports out of Cardiff suggest coach Warren Gatland's hopes of coaching a second British and Irish Lions team may be hanging by a thread.

Gatland coached the Lions to a series win in Australia in 2013 and is regarded as the favourite to coach the team on next year's tour of New Zealand.

However, the first Test loss in Auckland, the abysmal showing by the side in midweek against Hamilton and Ireland's success over South Africa last weekend has seen Ireland coach Joe Schmidt's stocks rise.

Making matters more difficult for Gatland was the fact Lions administrators, tour manager John Spencer and chief executive John Feehan, were in the stands watching Wales' humiliation in Hamilton. noted: "It had seemed to be a case of completing the formalities before Gatland was confirmed as the choice of the four Home Unions to guide the best of British and Irish rugby in the Lions' attempt to win a second series in history against the All Blacks, Barry John, Gareth Edwards and company having created history in 1971.

"But it's not so clear-cut now with astute coach Joe Schmidt's stock rising again following Ireland's astonishing first triumph over the Springboks in South Africa."

The fact Ireland achieved their win with only 14 men for nearly 60 minutes, and 13 men, for a 10-minute period in that time had impressed.

England coach Eddie Jones had also been making an impression in Australia after their first Test win in Brisbane.

"It will be pointed out Jones has declared his non-availability for the Lions and that release is allegedly not written into Schmidt's contract with the Irish Rugby Union.

"But that doesn't mean anything. If the Lions committee want either of them, they will be approached cap in hand and it can be argued both can name their price, having seemingly ruled themselves out of the reckoning," it said.

A decision on the Lions coach is expected in September, after interviews next month by a committee of Spencer, Andy Irvine, Gareth Davies and Tom Grace, with Feehan having some input.

Spencer said: "We have an open book but my view is that coaches have to perform, just as players have to, to be selected, and the greatest test for them is to play in the southern hemisphere away from home for it's the sharp end of international rugby."