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Warren Gatland wants to lead Lions in 2017

Warren Gatland led the Lions to a 21 win over Australia in the summer. Picture: David Rogers/Getty

Warren Gatland led the Lions to a 21 win over Australia in the summer. Picture: David Rogers/Getty

  • by GARETH BLACK
 

Warren Gatland would be interested in leading the British and Irish Lions for the second time when they tour his native New Zealand in 2017.

The 50-year-old transferred the success he has enjoyed with Wales to the Lions this summer, guiding the tourists to their first series win in 16 years as they crushed Australia in the final Test to claim a 2-1 triumph.

That saw Gatland named UK coach of the year and high-performance coach of the Year at the 2013 UK Coaching Awards in London on Tuesday night.

Such was the effect on him of the Lions tour, Gatland would happily take the reins again – despite the criticism heaped on him after he dropped Brian O’Driscoll for the final Test.

“It was an incredible experience. To be involved, I was humbled and privileged,” Gatland said. “For me to go to New Zealand would be a great opportunity in 2017, but there is a huge amount of water to pass under the bridge before that.

“For me, the focus over the next couple of years is doing well for Wales. And, if Wales do well in the Six Nations and the World Cup, then you put yourself in the frame to, hopefully, be asked again. You never know, and, if I was asked to do it again and particularly in my own country, it would be something I would relish.”

Recalling the series, Gatland described it as an “amazing experience” although he admitted he was shocked by the reaction to O’Driscoll’s axing.

“I wasn’t [prepared],” he said.

“I think that people out in Australia weren’t aware of the almost hysteria that created but that’s sport and you’ve got to stand by your beliefs, put your hand on your heart and sometimes make some tough decisions.”

For now, though, Gatland is concentrating on his bid to win the RBS Six Nations with Wales for the third successive time.

“It is such a hard tournament to win,” he said. “It is a tournament of momentum – if you get a start and win the first game or two you have a chance of winning it. Three in a row, that would be something special, so there is a lot of pressure we are putting on ourselves. It is going to be tough.”

Despite their success against northern hemisphere sides, Wales’ defeat against Australia in the Millennium Stadium last Saturday was their ninth in succession against the Wallabies and 18th in a row against major southern-hemisphere opposition. But Gatland insists the gap is being closed, saying: “We are knocking on the door. We know we are not too far away. We are building to the World Cup and that is our goal.

“We are proud of what we have achieved in the last few years in terms of a couple of Grand Slams and the Six Nations title.

“We’ve got a pretty small playing base in Wales. We’ve got a group of special young men who are hopefully going to be around for the next four or five years. It’s a really special time in Welsh rugby.

“In saying that, you want to beat the best. We know we are not too far away – we are a step or two away from it, so we will keep working hard and keep knocking on the door and, hopefully, we will get that elusive southern-hemisphere scalp we are looking for too.”

 

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