The Lions have abandoned their stated intention of announcing Warren Gatland's management team ahead of next month's series of internationals having run out of time, but there will be no horse-trading as in the days of old, with continuity and ability counting for more than nationality.
Gatland wanted his team in place by the beginning of next month because he views the Tests between the four home unions and the major southern hemisphere countries as a more accurate barometer of players likely to shine in Australia next summer than the Six Nations.
He has had to have surgery on one of the feet he fractured during the summer when he was in New Zealand and, with contracts needing to be sorted out and compensation agreed, the process will take another five weeks, leaving the announcement to be made in the second week of December.
The management team will be revealed at a media conference in Scotland, part of the inclusive policy of the Lions. Gatland's appointment was made public at a London venue last month and further announcements will be made later in the season in Ireland and Wales.
Continuity was a word used several times during Gatland's unveiling as head coach. He was a member of the management team in South Africa in 2009 under Sir Ian McGeechan, and although the tour ended in a 2-1 Test series defeat, with the Springboks winning the first two Tests, the Lions repaired some of the damage inflicted in New Zealand four years previously.
The playing squad was smaller in number, the coaches were not divided into Saturdays and midweek and were a tight group, players were treated like university students rather than schoolboys and the media were not banned from occupying the same hotels as the Lions.
If it was not quite a return to the old days, the management reflected the old-fashioned nature of the tour, spread over a number of weeks rather than just a couple, and it is something Gatland wants to replicate in Australia. His management team will contain familiar faces.
Graham Rowntree, who worked alongside Gatland with the forwards in South Africa, and Shaun Edwards, the Wales defence coach who has worked with Gatland for virtually a decade and was another part of the 2009 effort, are almost certain to be appointed, subject to release by their unions.
Gatland said last month that he would be taking a position between continuity and freshness. "One of the things we learned from 2009 and Lions as a concept is that for it to be successful you want some continuity," he went on. "You want to learn from previous tours and have people involved from them, but it is important as well to have fresh faces.
"In 2009 under Sir Ian McGeechan, we got back to what the Lions were traditionally about, not picking too big a squad, having the players room together and getting out and doing community stuff, such as school and hospital visits. We also wanted to play an attractive brand of rugby, which we did and were unlucky not to win the series. Ideally we would like to announce the coaches before the autumn: in 2009 our first selection meeting was after three rounds of the Six Nations."
He was asked whether it was important to have a mix of nationalities in his appointment team, although it could be argued that even with only Gatland and the tour manager Andy Irvine in situ, all four home unions are covered: Gatland, a New Zealander, is the Wales head coach but was in charge of Ireland the last time the Lions were in Australia and coached Wasps in the English Premiership in between while Irvine had a long and successful international career with Scotland.
"We have discussed a nationality mix," said Gatland, "We need it to reflect the four nations in the coaching and management, but we want to get some continuity from the last tour and it is also about getting the best people in the roles."
Rob Howley was the attack coach in South Africa. He has taken over from Gatland this season as Wales's head coach on an interim basis and would not be drawn on the subject of the Lions this week. Wales are in Japan next summer and with Gatland unlikely to seek a renewal of his contract with Wales when it ends after the 2015 World Cup, Howley has the opportunity to make himself the probable successor.
Leinster's coach, Joe Schmidt, has been regarded as a contender for the position of attack coach. Like Gatland, he is a Kiwi, and two in one management team may be difficult to sell politically, even with the Lions saying that the head coach will have the final say in the make-up of the management team and the playing squad.
It is hard to see Gatland turning to Scotland's attack coach, Scott Johnson, after the Australian's time with Ospreys when there was never an indication of bonhomie between the two men. Gatland said last year that he was always "banging heads" with the region, prompting Johnson to retort that he did not have a relationship with the Wales coach, good or bad, because he never saw him.
A feature of the management team in 2009 was that they were not strangers meeting up for the first time just before the tour: McGeechan had worked at Wasps with Edwards who had been part of successful teams with Gatland. Rowntree had toured South Africa with the Lions as a player in 1997 when McGeechan was in charge, and in 2005 when McGeechan ran the midweek side. The manager, Gerald Davies, was a playing contemporary of McGeechan's and interviewed Gatland for the position of Wales coach.
The England coach Andy Farrell provides familiarity because he worked with Rowntree at national level and has long known Edwards through their rugby league days. Farrell's role with England is different from the one he filled in the Six Nations because Mike Catt has since joined the coaching set-up and his brief is now more similar to Edwards's, but he was the head coach at Saracens and he occupied a key position in attack during his career as a rugby union player.
Would England release both Rowntree and Farrell? Would Farrell, given his agonising over whether to accept a full-time offer from England, saying no and then changing his mind, turn down the Lions with the national side touring Argentina next summer?
It is another reason why Gatland will go into next month's international series with his coaching team still to be finalised.
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