Gatland, pictured, was speaking in Edinburgh yesterday after, as expected, being confirmed as the man to lead the Lions on the 2017 tour of New Zealand, four years after he guided them to a series win in Australia.
He will now take a sabbatical from the Wales job and begin preparations for what promises to be a brutally demanding trip to face the back-to-back world champions. His support staff will not be announced until 7 December but Scotland coach Cotter, also interviewed for the top Lions post, has been tipped to join Gatland’s team, with England and Ireland counterparts Eddie Jones and Joe Schmidt ruling themselves out.
Cotter’s time as Scotland boss effectively ends after next year’s Six Nations, with Glasgow Warriors coach Gregor Townsend taking the reins in June.
Gatland said: “I’m not sure what Vern’s situation is at the moment. Is he going back to France? Is he going back to New Zealand? I think there is a little responsibility. It’s not a hard and fast rule but I think you’d like to take support staff who, post-Lions, and with the experience they get from that, that they are staying in the northern hemisphere. Sharing what they’ve learned and bringing it back. I’m not saying it’s a set rule but that’s my thinking on it at the moment.”
Gatland said there was no chance of Townsend juggling a Scotland tour and teaming up with the Lions later, but one Scot who could be part of the staff is breakdown specialist Richie Gray, who on Monday rejoined Cotter’s staff as a contact consultant. The former Gala captain has experience of beating New Zealand while with the Springboks and, after working with Scotland in the autumn Tests and 2017 Six Nations, would be free to assist the Lions next summer. “I spoke to someone the other day who said that Richie was potentially going to put his name forward,” Gatland said. “The next few months is about starting to put a list together.”
Meanwhile, Rob Howley will now temporarily replace Gatland as Wales coach.