Who is Steve Tandy and what can he offer the Lions?

Steve Tandy
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This week British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland announced his coaching panel to join him for this year’s tour to South Africa and among them is Scotland’s Steve Tandy.

Tandy joins up with the Lions as the defence coach alongside attack coach Gregor Townsend, forwards coach Robin McBryde and kicking coach Neil Jenkins.

Previous Lions defence coaches have included Andy Farrell for the 2017 New Zealand and 2013 Australia tours, as well as current France defence coach Shaun Edwards for the last tour of South Africa in 2009.

Steve Tandy Biography

At 41-years-old, this will be Tandy’s sixth job in professional rugby coaching. As a player, he made 102 appearances for Ospreys as a flanker, scoring 50 points. He played for Ospreys from 2003 until 2010 when he retired to take the head coach role at Bridgend RFC. In his two years there, he led them to win the Division One title with a staggering 96 points and then went on to guide his side into the Principality Premiership with a cup final win over Glamorgan Wanderers.

In 2012, Steve Tandy took over from Sean Holley as head coach of Ospreys and would remain in that role for six years. While at Ospreys, Tandy managed an impressive two PRO14 semi-finals in 2014/15 and 2016/17, losing out both times to Irish giants Munster.

At the end of the 2018 season, the Welshman headed for Australia to join Super Rugby side New South Wales Waratahs as defensive coordinator. He spent just one year there before finally receiving his big breakthrough with an offer to become defence coach with the Scotland National Rugby team. He has been with Scotland since 2019 and has been instrumental in their development and recent success.

 What can Steve Tandy offer the Lions?

 The first thing Tandy brings to the table is his experience. He has coached at club level both in the UK and in Southern Hemisphere rugby, meaning he has a strong understanding of how the Lions will operate as a defensive unit as well as how the Springboks will implement their own playing style. His global rugby knowledge is vast and will be a useful asset in Gatland’s strategy.

He has also coached at the top level of rugby for almost ten years now and has worked with some of the best players in recent years. This year more so than ever, Scotland has been at the top of their game and therefore has a good chance of supplying the Lions with a good number of players. Having spent 3 years with Scotland already, Tandy has the advantage of good relationships with various potentially highly influential Lions players such as Stuart Hogg, Hamish Watson and Jonny Gray.

He brings expertise in man-management

The personal relationships that Tandy builds with players is another important trait he possesses. He works hard to get to know those involved in the squad and will work tirelessly to make them better players. The bond that Tandy creates between coach and player is vital in any team, but even more so for a group of players from rival countries travelling across the world. One of the biggest challenges that any coach faces is trying to get the players to gel and work as a combined unit both on and off the pitch and Tandy’s ability to create that cohesion will be critical if the Lions are to be successful.

Steve Tandy – a love for the game

Debatably the most powerful arrow in Tandy’s quiver of skills is his passion for doing what he loves. Although he started out as a general head coach and was good in that role, he quickly found his niche to be defence. His past two jobs have been strictly defence-related and his tactics have been proven to work.

Scotland’s defensive structure and discipline have hugely improved under Tandy and has been one of the main reasons for the success the side has seen recently. Scotland put in a very impressive Six Nations performance this year with wins away at Twickenham and at Stade de France. Irish legend Ronan O’Gara praised Tandy’s work after Scotland conceded just six points to England in the Calcutta Cup, saying it was “a disciplined defensive masterclass.”

Getting the best out of his players

Furthermore, Tandy’s proven tactics have helped develop some of the best defensive players in the world and players that the Lions would be foolish not to select. Hamish Watson, for example, made 55 tackles in the Six Nations this time around and has not missed a tackle since playing England in 2019, which is coincidently the year Tandy joined the Scotland setup. With the talent that England, Ireland and Wales have to offer, Tandy has the chance to take players to the next level of their careers and push on to pick up a series win in South Africa.

Despite having only managed a handful of sides and only being a defensive coach since 2018, Steve Tandy is an excellent selection for the 2021 Lions team and has a lot to give to the side. His man-management and no-nonsense, disciplined defence tactics, in particular, are what might just make the difference for this 34th Lions tour.


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