Rowntree named Lions assistant coach

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Graham Rowntree has been appointed assistant to British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland for the upcoming tour of New Zealand.

The 45-year-old spent eight years as assistant coach for England until he lost his job as part of a reshuffle following the embarrassing Rugby World Cup group-stage exit on home turf in 2015.

Rowntree was appointed as forwards coach at Harlequins last year and, having been part of the coaching teams for the Lions in 2009 and 2013, will link up again with Gatland.

Rowntree, who played for the Lions 1997 in South Africa and toured New Zealand eight years later, is relishing the opportunity.

"Having experienced the highs and the lows of the Lions as a player and a coach, I know how special it is," he said.

"This year will be the ultimate challenge considering the form that New Zealand have been in across the last decade, but looking at the talent and potential in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it is a hugely exciting opportunity for us to do something incredible.

"I am grateful and excited for the opportunity ahead, but my attention will firmly remain on Harlequins until the conclusion of our season."

Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins has also been added to Gatland's coaching team, which includes Steve Borthwick, Andy Farrell and Rob Howley, with Farrell and Howley returning to the staff from the winning tour of Australia four years ago.

Gatland added: "We all know what Neil and Graham bring - a huge amount of knowledge, experience and expertise at club, international and eight Lions Tours between them.

"They understand what it will take to win in New Zealand and to have them on board again is positive.

"I know Graham and Steve will complement each other and Neil will give us valuable backs and skills support. Given the schedule, with two games a week, having six coaches will allow us to devote enough time to ensuring we are successful.  

"I believe we have a coaching team that will get the best out of what will be a highly talented and motivated group of players capable of winning the Test series."