Top contenders to head British and Irish Lions for 2021 tour of South Africa

By 2021 Eddie Jones' insight into British and Irish rugby would be extensive
By 2021 Eddie Jones' insight into British and Irish rugby would be extensive

With Wales head coach Warren Gatland ruling himself out of the British and Irish Lions' upcoming tour of South Africa in 2021, we take a look at five of the leading contenders to take up the role.


Contracted to England until 2019 so the timing of the Lions tour two years later is far from perfect, but should he stay on by being successful at the next World Cup, Jones would be in the mix. By 2021 his insight into British and Irish rugby would be extensive - combine that with his coaching expertise and he becomes an outstanding candidate.


Another highly-respected tactician whose future is not mapped out beyond Japan 2019, Schmidt was in consideration for the post in New Zealand until the stars aligned in Gatland's favour. The Kiwi may seek a return home where he is much admired by the All Blacks hierarchy, but if available for the Lions he becomes a prime contender.


The Ulsterman's stock climbs higher every season, to the point that he is mooted in some quarters as Jones' successor at Twickenham despite a lack of international experience. Undoubtedly the pick of coaches operating in the Aviva Premiership as the guide of Saracens' rise to the pinnacle of European rugby, he could become Schmidt's successor at Ireland thereby paving the way to take charge of the Lions.


The least experienced of the candidates on this list, but a young coach of rich promise with a strong Lions pedigree as a player who helped topple the Springboks in 1997. Gatland wanted to take Townsend to New Zealand as part of his backroom staff during the summer, but the 44-year-old rejected the opportunity in order to focus on his new role at the helm of Scotland.


Wasps' fortunes have suffered this season amid a glut of injuries and - while Young has yet to win the major silverware that will elevate him to the top rank of coaches on these shores - he is a respected figure who is well placed to succeed Gatland when he steps down after the 2019 World Cup. From that position the door opens to taking charge of a Lions tour.