HEAD coach Warren Gatland is confident Australia is the place to lead the British and Irish Lions to a first Test series triumph in 16 years.
Next summer’s tour will be the fourth since the Lions’ most recent Test series triumph, in 1997 in South Africa but Gatland has already suggested Australia will be, comparatively, the easier proposition.
Gatland said: “Going to one of the top-three teams in the world, playing away from home and being successful is incredibly challenging but if you’d said to me, out of the three southern hemisphere teams, pick your choice of where you’d like to go, I would’ve said, ‘Australia probably’.
“It’s maybe the easiest from a Lions perspective. In the past there are teams that have had some success against the Australian sides.”
The New Zealand-born Wales coach may have been making mischief but there is reason behind his comments as the home unions have strong records against the Wallabies. Scotland, for example, have won their last two Tests against Australia.
It does not mean Gatland is underplaying the size of the task and he knows Australia are capable opponents and rise to a challenge, as demonstrated by last month’s heavy loss in France, which was followed by victory over England.
Gatland added: “We’ve got to be incredibly aware if we happen to win the first Test. We’ll know what’s coming in the second Test.
“They will do whatever it takes to get a result.”
The 49-year-old is equally aware Lions coaches have not had the happiest of experiences in recent times ahead of a tour which begins against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1, with the first of three Tests in Brisbane on June 22.
“The last four Lions tours the coach has lost his job within 12 months,” added Gatland, who has been seconded to the Lions from his role as head coach of Wales.
“It’s a poisoned chalice. My challenge is to be in the same job 12 months after the Lions tour. That would be success for me.”
In 2001 the Lions, under Graham Henry, lost the Test series to Australia despite being favourites against a Wallabies side in transition at the time. Gatland knows ending the Lions’ losing streak is imperative for the 125-year-old touring institution to continue.
“The Lions, as a brand, to be successful it’s got to win some tours,” Gatland added.