Henry backs Gatland

Warren Gatland has received the seal of approval from the last man to lead the Lions in Australia as he gets set to name his touring squad this Tuesday. [more]

Henry backs Gatland

Warren Gatland has received the seal of approval from the last man to lead the Lions in Australia as he gets set to name his touring squad this Tuesday.

Graham Henry was in charge when Britain and Ireland’s elite headed Down Under in 2001 and the former All Blacks boss is convinced his fellow Kiwi is the right man to gain revenge on the Wallabies this time around.

Henry’s time in the hotseat was a controversial one, with the Lions losing the series 2-1 amid rumours of disunity within the camp, and he admits he didn’t have the necessary experience to do the job justice.

But the man who guided New Zealand to global glory 10 years after his shot at supremacy with the Lions doesn’t envisage any such problems for the latest incumbent given that Gatland has more than 90 international games under his belt.

“He is exactly the right man for the job,” Henry told Media Wales.

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“Warren is an outstanding coach with a wealth of experience.

“He has led Wales to a couple of Grand Slams and they retained the Six Nations this year. I know he was not around, but it was his set-up.

“He had a successful spell with Ireland previously and he understands what the Lions are all about.

“I learned more from that experience as a coach in 2001 than any other. I thought I could do the job, but I was green as an international coach then.

“I now know that the position of Lions head coach is the most demanding in Test rugby.”

Henry’s tourists produced some sublime rugby 12 years ago, scoring 200 points in their opening two games and shocking the World Champion Wallabies in the first Test in Brisbane.

The Lions were on fire at The Gabba as they crossed the Australian tryline on four occasions but things went downhill from the second half onwards in Melbourne a week later and the Lions were edged out by John Eales, George Gregan, Matt Burke and co.

But rather than look for excuses such as the heavy blow to the head that brought influential flanker Richard Hill’s tour to a premature end or the intercept pass that Joe Roff picked off to turn the tide in the same second Test, Henry says it was his mistakes that cost the class of 2001 their place in history.

“I did not do things as well as I should have and made some wrong decisions. If I had got them right, we would have won the series,” added Henry.

“There was nothing between the teams, seven tries each, and it went to the very end, even though by the third Test injuries had really hit us hard.

“I do look back on 2001 with some fond memories because the Test series was terrific with some outstanding rugby played.

“I managed the tour as I did because we were in Australia at the end of a long, hard season and we’d minimal preparation time.

“What we did show was that we were a very good rugby side.”

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