EDINBURGH - The 2013 British and Irish Lions will be in safe hands with Warren Gatland.
It might be the best part of six months before the Lions head to Australia via a Hong Kong appointment with David Young's Barbarians, but Gatland is already making his presence felt.
During his entire tenure as Lions head coach, Gatland might never have to contemplate a tougher decision than one he has already made. It was announced yesterday that Gatland's coaching assistants Down Under next summer would be Rob Howley, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.
The appointments had been widely trailed for the best part of a week, yet reality still resulted in many raised eyebrows. The reason? No Shaun Edwards.
The former Wigan rugby league star, one of Gatland's trusty lieutenants throughout his 56-Test reign as Wales supremo, played an integral Lions coaching role on the 2009 tour to South Africa. And it did not require a degree in rocket science to put him among the front-runners this time around.
But in omitting Edwards from his plans, Gatland proved once again he was not afraid to make the hardest calls. And, as usual, he made it against a back-drop of what he perceives to be a bigger picture.
"It was pretty agonising really," said Gatland, reflecting on Edwards missing out.
"There was a lot of speculation — people talking about Shaun. For me, that was the most difficult decision to have to make."