Andy Irvine believes there are plenty of worthy candidates for the role of Lions coach in 2013.
Britain and Ireland’s elite head to Australia in 18 months time to take on the Wallabies in a repeat of their heartbreaking 2001 adventure.
The Lions will play nine fixtures Down Under and one in Hong Kong and Irvine is confident he and fellow committee members Gerald Davies, John Spencer and Tom Grace will not be short of options when it comes to selecting the man to lead the party.
“There's no doubt it's a difficult choice but it's such a highly-prized job that I don't think we will be short of candidates,” said Irvine, who was Lions chairman in 2009 and is now team manager.
“To play for the Lions is the ultimate and to coach them is pretty close to that. It's a great accolade for any coach who's selected to coach the Lions because you are the best of the best.”
Irvine envisages making an appointment sometime in the spring of 2012 as he seeks a coach who will be able to fully commit to the Lions in the season leading up to the tour.
The man charged with guiding the tourists in Australia is likely to be free from other coaching duties in the 2012/13 campaign, with Irvine set to interview a shortlist of leading contenders sometime after the next Six Nations.
“We have a completely open mind when it comes to who will be the Lions coach,” added Irvine.
“We are reviewing a number of potential coaches just now. Obviously whoever does coach will be taking a year out – or if not a year, certainly very close to it – so he will have plenty of time for preparation.
“The head coach would have to be free from international duties in the Six Nations for that year in order to look at players in international matches. He would have to be completely unencumbered for at least the autumn series onwards. You want someone to devote 100 per cent of his time to the Lions tour.
“You'll find a lot of the potential coaches are structuring their own commitments so that hopefully they will be available for the Lions.
Andy Irvine will help select the Lions coach for the tour of Australia
“We can look world-wide but, having said that, the committee as a whole would like someone who has an association with the Lions.
“My understanding is that it's likely all three current Home Union coaches will be available, which is great news for us because it shows their intent and their interest.
“It's easy to be part of the management team; it's the head coach that's the difficult one because that's the one who would need to take a year out from their national duties. What I've been told is it's likely all three will be available for the whole tour if required.”
Sir Ian McGeechan led the Lions for an incredible fourth time in 2009, following on from previous stints as head coach in 1989, 1993 and 1997, as well as a spell as assistant coach in 2005.
And while the ex-Scotland and Lions centre initially suggested that he wouldn’t be seeking to continue in the same capacity in 2013, Irvine admits McGeechan hasn’t categorically ruled himself out of any further involvement next time around.
But even if McGeechan isn’t among the latest Lions party, it is possible that other members of the 2009 coaching staff could be involved against the Wallabies as Irvine seeks the kind of continuity that would make bringing four nations together as one just that little bit easier.
“I speak to Geech every now and again and I don't think he has ruled himself out entirely. He did indicate at the end of the last tour he wasn't sure if he would tour again but he hasn't come out with anything definitive yet. If he hasn't closed the door, he has to be an option.
“Continuity is an important thing. It's going to be a very tight schedule so it will certainly help if you have been involved.
“There's also a view it would be nice to spread the Lions duties around a bit. That’s the dilemma. It's a push-pull situation. But we've got to look to an element of continuity, there's no doubt about that.”