Warren Gatland dismisses Vern Cotter’s Lions coaching claims

Head coach Warren Gatland at the launch of the new British and Irish Lions jersey.

Head coach Warren Gatland at the launch of the new British and Irish Lions jersey.

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If Scotland coach Vern Cotter wants to watch the British and Irish Lions play against the All Blacks next year he will have to buy tickets like everyone else after head coach Warren Gatland dismissed the possibility of the Kiwi being added to his roster.

“Probably not,” was Gatland’s succinct response when asked if Cotter was in the frame for an assistant’s role. “If he’s not contributing to Lions rugby it probably counts him out a little bit. If he’d stayed in Scotland or one of the home nations then his experience could have been invaluable but it’s unfortunate... he made the decision to go to France and good luck to him.”

That last line looks like the polite equivalent of a slap in the face with a wet fish although Scotland may yet get coaching representation of sorts. Gregor Townsend has repeatedly avoided the chance to state that he will definitely tour with Scotland to Australia and Fiji next summer which strongly suggests that SRU boss Mark Dodson has given his blessing for him to join the Lions should Scotland’s next coach get the call. Gatland sounds more interested in the Glasgow boss than a great many Scottish players.

“I think obviously Gregor has done really well over the last few seasons, especially with Glasgow,” Gatland said at 
yesterday’s jersey launch. “Gregor has already had time with Scotland and I think the time and experience he learned from there, he’s gone back to Glasgow and put in a lot of those things that he learned from being involved in international rugby and that is really pleasing from my point of view.

“What I am thinking about is we talked about the coaches and the back-up team. I can tell you from experience there is a huge amount of pressure from a coaching point of view because you are not just preparing one team. Sometimes you are preparing two teams. You are getting one team ready for one game and thinking three days ahead for the next game.

“From a coaching perspective you are coaching in the morning with the team to play the next game and then coaching in the afternoon with the other 20 who are training for a game in two weeks. So I thought about adding another coach to the set-up, not just for numbers but to take a little pressure off the coaching staff and potentially on a few occasions to allow the coaches a morning off or an afternoon off or a day off because it’s an incredibly tough gig for the coaches when you are on the Lions tour.”

Gatland’s current itinerary would rival Phileas Fogg’s. He jets off to Chicago where he will watch the New Zealand Maori play the Eagles on Friday before catching the All Blacks against Ireland the following day. Then it is back to the UK for the remainder of the autumn internationals and the fact that he visits Twickenham, twice, Dublin and Paris where France take on New Zealand, tells you everything you know about the chances of very many Scottish players elbowing their way into the coach’s conscience between now and next May.

The last Scot to start a Lions Test was Tom Smith way back in 2001 and the only name Gatland could conjure up when placed on the spot was the obvious one.

“There have been a lot of players over the last 12 months who have been showing up. Stuart Hogg has matured, he has been around for a while, he has experienced a Lions tour and he is a quality player. He is one of the players who come to mind. He has to play well but he is a player who could potentially be in the frame.”

You wonder how many Scots Gatland actually knows apart from the full-back who toured under him in 2013?

Still the Lions boss insisted that he would watch 
Scotland in the flesh during the Six Nations which he called the “bread and butter” of European international rugby.

l Untouchable until it’s earnt. Canterbury’s new British & Irish Lions Jersey is available to buy at www.canterbury.com

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