Gatland the Lion king in waiting
Rugby:Wales boss Warren Gatland confirmed that he is close to being appointed coach for the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia next year. Speaking at Waikato University, the former Connacht, Ireland and Wasps coach said that he will meet Lions’ officials upon his return to Britain from New Zealand on Sunday to continue discussions ahead of the official announcement on September 4th.
If he elects to take the position the New Zealander will take a 10 months sabbatical from the Welsh job to concentrate on his new role. He will though be allowed to oversee Wales’ test matches against New Zealand and Australia in November.
He explained: “I go back on Sunday and I’ve got to go to Scotland for a couple of days planning with a couple of people from the Lions. And then there’s an announcement on September 4th. We still haven’t signed anything yet but it’s very close, and if I do take the position I’ll be seconded to the Lions for 10 months.
“They’ve allowed me to be involved in the All Blacks Test for that week, and the Australian week. I won’t coach the Samoa and Argentinian weeks or be involved in the Six Nations. I think that’s trying to give the position some neutrality.”
Gatland served as one of Ian McGeechan’s deputies on the Lions' 2009 tour to South Africa and is excited by the possibility of returning to what is a challenging format. “The great thing about the tour is that it’s the old-style tour.
“It’s 10 games in Australia - the first game is in Hong Kong against the Barbarians, and then we play the five Super Rugby franchises, three Tests against Australia, and I think a game against NSW Country.
“It’s a great chance to mould players from four different countries together is such a short period. I think we get them for about a week before we go on tour, and it’s a great experience. It’s difficult to do. As a concept you want the Lions to be successful.”