Stuart Lancaster says no Lions job offer yet, but it's only a matter of time
"It's possible. It's possible."
Stuart Lancaster did not shirk the question of Leinster possibly ending this majorly disrupted 2019/20 rugby season as "invincibles", nor did he shy away from links with the British & Irish Lions.
Leinster's senior coach has found himself in multiple Lions headlines and stories since Warren Gatland, who will lead the tourists to South Africa in 2021, mentioned him during a chat with the Sky Sports rugby podcast.
Leo Cullen, Leinster's head coach, last week said he would be more than happy for Lancaster to link up with the Lions next summer and the Englishman said likewise during a press briefing today. Asked about that Gatland interview, Lancaster commented:
"Just to clarify, I don't think he mentioned me as a Lions coach. He just mentioned that we had a conversation, which we did. But no, no, I can end the speculation. He didn't offer me a coaching role with the Lions. But we did catch up. I know him well. Coached England against his Wales since 2012 so we had a catch-up, but I think there's a long way to go on that."
A long way to go, there may be but the speculation is likely to be ongoing.
Lancaster's contract is with Leinster and not the IRFU, so there may be some sort of remuneration package - for services lost whilst chasing glory against the Springboks - negotiated.
To our mind, though, expect an official announcement about Lancaster before this elongated 2019/20 season concludes.
A follow-up question for Lancaster about his interest in working under Gatland - his old Six Nations and 2015 World Cup coaching rival - garnered this response:
"Well if you asked any coach, yeah, in the northern hemisphere, 'Would you like to be involved?' Of course you'd like to be involved because it's coaching at the highest level against the team that's the current world champions. But, as I say, there's a lot to play out in that. He's got to come back from New Zealand and, I think he's said in the podcast, speak to the home unions. Because there's obviously a great group of international coaches there, who would all be great candidates, I'm sure."
Lancaster provided an update on flanker Dan Leavy that was less enthusiastic than his fellow Leinster coach Robin McBryde, last week. Leavy has been out of action since March 2019 and a replacements outing against Ulster, on August 29, is the current desire.
Lancaster says Leavy and James Ryan [shoulder] are 'both rehabbing on the side of the pitch at the moment'. He added:
"Dan has made amazing progress, I think. But they're not involved in team sessions at the moment. Both of them, it would be a stretch, to say the least, for Dan to be involved in the Munster game. Because, obviously, the injury - with as severe as it was - and the length of time out - we had to make sure we manage him back appropriately.
"But he's been doing units and stuff; he's been doing bits and pieces; but he's still got to do full training for a full week. We're obviously just over a week away from playing Munster now.
"James has made good progress, really. I think Leo was saying that last week. He wouldn't be training with us at the moment but we're optimistic that, if things go well, that he can get towards the finals. The semi-final and finals stages, which is three or four weeks from that Munster game."
Leinster are 19 games unbeaten this season and would have to win seven more to achieve that 'Invincible' tag. "We've got a huge game against Munster," he says.
"That game itself doesn't need any further motivation for either team. Followed by a really huge game against Ulster, and then we're into a PRO14 semi-final, which is a must-win game. And we've got to win that in order to get to the PRO14 final.
"And if you win that, you've still got Saracens in a European Cup quarter final. And if you win that, you're going to be in a Euroean Cup semi-final. I don't think there's ever been a bigger start to a season than that."
WATCH THE LATEST HOUSE OF RUGBY EPISODE HERE:
SUBSCRIBE TO BAZ & ANDREW'S HOUSE OF RUGBY: https://playpodca.st/house-of-rugby-ie
Catch up on all our episodes from the past two seasons and our interviews with the likes of Conrad Smith, Victor Matfield, Simon Zebo, Sean O'Brien, Drew Mitchell, Jean De Villiers, Finn Russell, Dave Kilcoyne, Ronan O'Gara, Mike Brown, Brian O'Driscoll, Tana Umaga and much, much more.