Lions all-time XV – head coach

So the votes are in for your dream British & Irish Lions XV of all-time looks like, but one important question still remains - who is going to be dishing out the orders? Here we look at the stand-out candidates for head coach of your dream XV. Tell us who you think should take the reins and we'll add up the votes and publish the all-time Lions XV, as selected by the fans. [more]

Lions all-time XV – head coach

So the votes are in for your dream British & Irish Lions XV of all-time looks like, but one important question still remains – who is going to be dishing out the orders? Here we look at the stand-out candidates for head coach of your dream XV. Tell us who you think should take the reins and we’ll add up the votes and publish the all-time Lions XV, as selected by the fans.

Having ended 16 years of hurt this summer as he led the British & Irish Lions to a series victory over Australia, Warren Gatland inked his name into the history books.

It was a spectacular way to mark his first British & Irish Lions tour as head coach, leading the side to a 2-1 Test series success.

But even still Gatland has some way to go before he can match the feats of someone who epitomises what it is to be a Lion – Sir Ian McGeechan.

Geech – as he is affectionately known – belongs to a small, select band of men who have played for and coached the British & Irish Lions.

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But even among this elite he is out on his own as a four-times coach with two series victories to his name.

After travelling on the 1974 and 1977 Lions tours to South Africa and New Zealand respectively, Geech was handed the role of head coach for the 1989 trip Down Under.

And he showed he was just as good as leading the Lions than running out for them as he led his side to a 2-1 series victory.

A year later he coached Scotland to the Grand Slam in the Five Nations Championship but when he returned in 1993 to once again lead the Lions his luck run out.

Geech was on the losing side in New Zealand as the hosts won 2-1, however the sole series victory did see the Lions produce their biggest win over the All Blacks and were denied victory in the opener only by a last-gasp penalty.

In 1997, McGeechan completed his coaching hat-trick in the sweetest manner, by repeating the series victory in South Africa he experienced as a player just over two decades earlier. And Geech’s reward? A free head shave from Keith Wood, demon barber of Limerick.

In 2005 he coached the midweek side on the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand on the invitation of Sir Clive Woodward, England’s World Cup winning coach unable to repeat his heroics with the famous red jersey as New Zealand whitewashed the series 3-0.

However Geech was back at the helm just four years later but was denied a fitting end to his life as a Lions as South Africa claimed a 2-1 victory.

Gatland helped forget these woes this summer but his path to coach of the Lions was paved by fellow Kiwi Graham Henry, who in 2001 became the first ‘foreigner’ to take the reins. However it was ultimately unsuccessful as Australia came out 2-1 winners.

Jim Telfer is perhaps better known as Geech’s right-hand man but he too held the role of head coach in 1983, although New Zealand ran out 4-0 Series winners.

Telfer was preceded by Noel Murphy who made his name in the back row of the Lions, with coaching proving slightly trickier as South Africa secured a 3-1 victory.

But Murphy is not alone in having trouble transferring playing talent across to the dugout, with successful 1971 captain John Dawes having a disappointing return to New Zealand as coach six years later as the All Blacks wrapped up the series.

Having said that though, Syd Millar had no trouble as the Irish prop coached ‘The Invicibles’ to a 3-0 success over Australia in 1974.

Considered to have produced the best-prepared Lions squad in the history of the game, Millar was rewarded by becoming the only 20th century coach to beat the Springboks in a four-Test series in South Africa.

Millar rated the 1959 side as the best he ever played in, but the triumph of 1974 still stands his finest Lions hour. 

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