Lions to wait for coach Gatland
Wales Rugby Union boss Roger Lewis has rubbished speculation coach Warren Gatland could miss the upcoming tour of Australia following reports he's already been offered the British and Irish Lions job.
It’s been claimed the New Zealander, who won his second Grand Slam with the Dragons earlier this month, was interviewed in London last Wednesday with the appointment expected to be finalised in the next month.
Lions bosses want their coach to be available a year out from the 10-match tour and, while the WRU have indicated they would be willing to allow Gatland to miss the 2013 Six Nations, Lewis was adamant he would be with Wales for their three-Test clash against the Wallabies in June.
“We have had informal discussions with the British and Irish Lions over the last few months and we have talked to Warren about this for the best part of a year,” Lewis said.
“Warren does not have a clause in his contract which contains provision for him to coach the Lions, but we are hugely supportive of him and them.What I will say is that there is no question that Warren will not be leading Wales on our very important tour to Australia and I, personally, would like him to be involved in our autumn Tests against New Zealand and Australia in Cardiff.”
Should the reports prove accurate, it would be Gatland’s second stint with the British Isles side having worked as an assistant under Sir Ian McGeechan during the 2009 series defeat against South Africa. He would also be the second foreigner to coach the Lions following compatriot Graham Henry’s unsuccessful tour Down Under in 2001.
The 48-year-old is likely to appoint Wales defence guru Shaun Edwards as one of his assistants, while England defence coach Graham Rowntree has also been widely tipped to join his backroom staff.
That would leave Gatland’s current assistants Rob Howley and Robin McBryde to hold the fort with Wales during next year’s Six Nations and the summer tour of Japan.