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Lions tour squad taking shape for Gatland

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/12/2016 Andrew Baldock
Coach Warren Gatland © AAP Image/Dave Hunt Coach Warren Gatland

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland says about half of his squad are already pencilled in for next year's New Zealand tour.

As had been widely expected, England forwards coach Steve Borthwick, Ireland defence specialist Andy Farrell and current Wales interim head coach Rob Howley will join Lions chief Gatland on the 10-match trip.

Confirmation of the trio came at a press conference in Dublin on Wednesday.

Farrell and Howley return for another Lions expedition after working with New Zealander Gatland during the successful 2013 Australia tour.

And now that the coaches are in place, speculation will intensify over the make-up of Gatland's final squad, which will be announced on April 19.

It will come after a November Test schedule in which England won all four of their games, Ireland beat New Zealand and Wales claimed their best series of results since 2002.

"To name a squad now, I would probably get a list of 15-20 names with a good chance of going," Gatland said.

"That (autumn internationals) was the best the northern hemisphere teams have done in a long time versus the southern hemisphere. It was massively encouraging."

Gatland says the identity of the Lions captain won't be considered until the selectors finalise a squad.

"A lot of people talk about dual captains, I don't think we will do that," Gatland said.

"Probably it will be someone doing (a) captaincy role at the moment."

Ex-England skipper and current Red Rose forwards coach Borthwick is a Lions newcomer.

He has made a considerable impression during England's spectacular unbeaten revival under their Australian head coach Eddie Jones.

Former England assistant coach Farrell was appointed Ireland defence coach earlier this year.

Attack specialist Howley, who is currently Wales boss while Gatland concentrates on Lions business this season, makes his third successive Lions tour as a coach. He also travelled as a player in 1997 and 2001.

Gatland has not ruled out making further coaching appointments.

The likes of former England and Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan and Saracens rugby director Mark McCall have both been linked with roles.

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