Gatland for 2017?

It is fast turning into one of the greatest coaching cvs of the professional rugby age - or any era for that matter. [more]

Gatland for 2017?

It is fast turning into one of the greatest coaching cvs of the professional rugby age – or any era for that matter.

Everything that Warren Gatland touches ultimately seems to turn to gold. There were three Premiership tiles with London Wasps, to go with two European titles, two Grand Slams and a third 6 Nations title with Wales, a World Cup semi-final and now a British & Irish Lions test series.

It simply gets better and better for the honorary Welshman from Hamilton, New Zealand, but the question on everyone’s lips is will he carry on as the had coach for the Lions in his native New Zealand in four years time?

There have been 11 coaches of the Lions team ever since the 1950 Test player John Robins was given the task in 1966. He delivered a 2-0 victory in the series against Australia before losing 4-0 in New Zealand.

In 1971, Carwyn James took northern hemisphere coaching to a new level when he masterminded what is still the only Lions victory in New Zealand with a 2-1 triumph that also included a draw in the fourth and final Test. Syd Millar paved the way for the 1974 Lions to beat the Springboks 3-0, while Ian McGeechan is the only coach to have won two series, against the Qantas Wallabies in 1989 and the Springboks in 1997.

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The carrot for Gatland now is to try to match the magical McGeechan’s record of winning two series in 2017 and to follow in the footsteps of James as the only Lions coach to have won against the All Blacks – the team that Gatland represented as a player in the eighties.

"There is a lot of water to go under the bridge before 2017. You get opportunities in life if you're part of successful environments and teams and winning a couple of Grand Slams with Wales and reaching the semi-final of the World Cup has given me this opportunity,” said Gatland.

“I'm grateful for the chance and if it came up again then it's something I might look at. The Lions are something that we need to preserve for the modern game – it's special and it has been a privilege for me to experience it.

"It's important that the Lions and Home Unions get together to agree adequate preparation time for future tours. It means there has to be a negotiation with the southern hemisphere to push things back a bit in terms of the number of lead up games because to be successful you want to have the best possible opportunity.

“The season needs to be adjusted so that we can spend a couple of weeks in the UK and Ireland preparing properly. This tour was tougher than it was in South Africa four years ago because the game is becoming more and more physical.

“It's tough to put two games together, so maybe you need a break in between games to rejuvenate yourself. The Lions need to be given the best possible chance to be successful for the future.

“New Zealand is harder from a logistical point of view and poses a different challenge than Australia. I am not saying it is harder, I am saying it is different from a logistical point of view.

“It wasn’t until I left there I realised what a difficult country it is to tour because getting around is much more challenging. You go to a lot of smaller venues and they have to make sure the proper process is put in place to give the Lions the best chance to be successful for the future.”

Lions tour manager Andy Irvine claimed Gatland was ‘cup tied’ for 2017, meaning he can only coach the Lions and not the All Blacks, and there is little doubt he will be the bookies favourite to take the team on tour to New Zealand in four years time. His contract with Wales sees him take them through to the 2015 Rugby World Cup at least.

“Warren's had one hell of a tough week and deserve s huge amount of credit because he obviously made a very difficult selection decision. I was as disappointed as anyone when Brian O'Driscoll wasn't named in the Test side,” said Irvine.

"Without a doubt Brian has been the outstanding player in the northern hemisphere for the last 20-30 years. He ranks right up there with Mike Gibson, Gareth Edwards, Willie John McBride and Martin Johnson. Personally I believe he outstrips them all.

“Warren made that decision quite simply because he thought it was best for the team as a whole. It would have been far easier to pick Brian, but Warren didn't do that because he didn't think it was right for the team.”
 

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