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Dublin: 10°C Tuesday 13 April 2021

Four more years? Gatland won't rule out another Lions tour

Would you like to see the coach lead the Lions to New Zealand in 2017?

Image: David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

WARREN GATLAND HAS made himself favourite to take the British and Irish Lions to New Zealand in 2017 by refusing to rule out leading the squad next time round.

The former Waikato and New Zealand hooker yesterday became the first Lions coach in 16 years to claim a series win over a southern hemisphere side.

Gatland, who is contracted with Wales through to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, looks set to top the Lions’ coaching agenda after the British and Irish team’s 41-16 demolition of Australia in the deciding third Test in Sydney.

“There is a lot of water to go under the bridge before 2017,” Gatland said today.

“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.

“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.”

After the thrilling Test series won by the Lions 2-1, Gatland is in pole position to follow Ian McGeechan as the only coach to take the Lions on more than one tour. But he also stressed the importance of preparation.

He said the Australia tour had been tougher than the one to South Africa four years ago and that players on future tours should get several weeks to train together in the UK and Ireland.

“It’s important that the Lions and Home Unions get together to agree adequate preparation time for future tours,” he said.

“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.”

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Gatland said New Zealand posed different challenges to Australia.

“I am not saying it is harder, I am saying it is different from a logistical point of view,” he said.

“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.”

Gatland said he had sympathy with fellow Kiwi and Wallabies coach, Robbie Deans, who ended up on the wrong end of the series scoreline and who now faces a battle to hold onto his job.

But Gatland put his side’s runaway success in Sydney’s decisive third Test to his players being emotionally stronger than the Wallabies.

“In big games there’s a lot of emotion involved and I thought the Australian emotion last week was something we didn’t match. They were more desperate than we were and got some momentum,” said Gatland.

“We questioned whether they’d be able to repeat that emotion. There were also another few levels from us in terms of performance and we worked hard on getting our game right.

“It’s not easy to finish strongly in one Test and go straight into the next and expect that to be your starting point. You’ve got to go through the process again.

“For us to go home having won the series is icing on the cake. It went down to the wire and that’s why you’re involved in professional sport — you want it to be tough and nail-biting.”

- © AFP, 2013

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