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Interview: Ian McGeechan
Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan has been confirmed as head coach for the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa.
The Scot has already coached on four previous Lions trips, three as head coach, including the victorious 1997 series win over the Springboks.
McGeechan, 61, was also a player on the 1974 and 1977 Lions side tours.
"The Lions are special and unique, you can't compare them to anything else you'll do as a player or coach," said McGeechan.
"I have a strong philosophy and principle in what the Lions should be trying to do," he added.
"Because the Lions are so unique, the preparation has to be unique. Ten games in eight weeks is a unique challenge.
"I firmly believe you need a very tight group - players who can work together as a group with each other and the coaches.
McGeechan, coach of the successful midweek team in 2005 as one of Sir Clive Woodward's assistants, guided the Lions to series victories over Australia in 1989 and then-world champions South Africa in 1997, as well as a narrow series defeat by New Zealand in 1993.
The former Scotland and Northampton coach was always favourite to take on the role for the three-Test, 10-match tour from 30 May - 4 July next year against the world champion Springboks.
As a Lions player, the former Scotland centre featured in all four Tests of the 1974 series victory over South Africa and all four against New Zealand three years later.
"From day one McGeechan was in our thoughts, he's the most successful coach in Lions history," added Lions chairman Andy Irvine.
"We wanted someone with a special bond with the Lions. We looked elsewhere as well but time and again we kept going back to Ian.
"The 2005 tour (of New Zealand) was very disappointing as we lost the Test series 3-0 so it's vital we have the best leadership to achieve success in South Africa."
Meanwhile McGeechan's assistant at Wasps, Shaun Edwards, is also expected to be part of the Lions coaching staff, although his head coach at Wales, Warren Gatland, has had no approach.
"No-one's spoken to me about the Lions. Before that could happen they'd have to speak to the WRU, which they haven't," said Gatland.
McGeechan confirmed that the Lions captain would not be named until next spring, probably after the 2009 Six Nations Championship.
"The Lions tour starts from today for me and (team manager) Gerald Davies. We intend to spend time together and talk things through," said McGeechan.
"We have certain beliefs and philosophies about the Lions and hopefully over the next two months the management and structure will be in place."
The arrangement does allow me flexibility. The club are very comfortable with the situation
McGeechan also added that there would be no conflict between his duties for Wasps and Lions despite the fact that next year's Guinness Premiership final is due to be played on the same day as the opening Lions fixture against Highveld XV in Royal Bafokeng, Rustenburg.
He said: "I am pretty certain that issue will be resolved very quickly and the first match of the Lions tour will not clash with the Premiership final.
"I will continue to coach at Wasps - that's important. I want to be hands on at Wasps, especially with the Experimental Law Variations coming in.
"I need to understand what the applications of the ELVs are and you can only do that if you do hands on coaching.
"The arrangement does allow me flexibility. The club are very comfortable with the situation."
Team manager Davies, the former Wales and Lions wing, paid tribute to McGeechan's "extraordinary contribution" to Scottish and English rugby as well as the Lions.
"It is a remarkable career, unparalleled in our islands and it is difficult to imagine anyone else who can match the quality of his coaching," Davies said.
"He is a lovely guy and to have him on board with his experience was essential."