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Saturday 3 December 2016

Barnes ranks Schmidt ahead of Gatland for Lions

Stuart Barnes
Stuart Barnes

The world holds its breath as the battle for the William Webb Ellis Trophy moves into view. The four-year cycle is almost complete.

We are also halfway towards the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

This could very well be Stuart Barnes specialist subject were he to take his seat on Mastermind. The former England fly-half and analyst is never short of an opinion.

Will it be Warren Gatland versus Joe Schmidt? Or can Stuart Lancaster mount a challenge for The Lions next expedition?

"The Lions is an interesting one," he said.

"First of all, by November 1, the odds will have shifted decisively towards one coach should one of the three of those make it to the World Cup final."

"Andy Irvine went on record, immediately after the Australia series win, saying 'it should be Gatland!'

"My view was The Lions made hard work out of beating a rubbish team.

"I like Warren as a man. But, had The Lions lost that series, it would have been a calamity.

"So where are we there? I think Joe Schmidt's the outstanding tactical coach in Europe and one of the best in the world. "What he did last year with Ireland, when they played less rugby, made me think even more that he would be my contender.

"He stripped Ireland back. In a way, that's what you need with The Lions.

"You strip a team back so the basics are very easy.

"If I was on The Lions selection committee, right now, I would be making Joe Schmidt my number one choice by some distance."

However, should Wales or England travel to the final, even win it, the whole landscape would be altered.

"A final would put a candidate in a very strong position. A win would seal the deal. End of story."

All these coaches are playing for World Cup glory and the rewards that come with it.

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