Lions role “huge honour” says Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland has said it would be a “huge honour” to be involved in the British and Irish Lions coaching staff on their 2009 tour of South Africa.

Gatland would also like his trusty deputy Shaun Edwards to feature as well after the duo enhanced their coaching credentials by guiding Wales to a coveted Six Nations Grand Slam last weekend.

New Zealander Gatland’s first season in charge of Wales could not have so far gone any better if it had been scripted in Hollywood.

Five straight wins for a side which, under former coach Gareth Jenkins, failed to reach the quarter-finals of last year’s World Cup surpassed even Gatland’s expectations.

But the former Ireland, Wasps and Waikato coach will now be a strong contender for the Lions post.


However, the 44-year-old Gatland made it clear he would not take on a role if it jeopardised his work with Wales.

“If there’s a chance to get involved at some level that would be a huge honour but I have to make sure I don’t neglect Wales,” Gatland told BBC Radio on Monday.

“I’m not going to get ahead of myself – in the past other coaches have been involved with the Lions and haven’t made their own job with their own nation the number one priority.

“The Lions take up a lot of time and there’s a lot of politics involved in picking the right team.” Gatland and Edwards have enjoyed a successful partnership having previously guided Wasps to English Premiership and European Cup glory.

Edwards, who is still head coach at Wasps, where Lions legend Ian McGeechan is the director of rugby, joined up in a part-time role with Wales to pursue a career in international coaching.

He turned down a position with England’s second-string Saxons in order to work at Test level with Wales.

The rugby league great’s role in improving Wales’s defence to such an extent they conceded a record low of two tries in the Six Nations has not gone unnoticed and Gatland added: “I’d love Shaun to be involved and he would relish that responsibility.”

Edwards too would be delighted to have a Lions role, ideally as deputy to Gatland.

“I think Warren would definitely go if asked and I’m sure he’d do a very good job,” Edwards told BBC television’s ‘Inside Sport’ programme.

“I’d like to put my hat in the ring – but not as a head coach.” Lions coaches have tended to come from one of the four ‘Home Unions’ of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales which provide their players.

But in 2001 they broke with tradition by appointing Gatland’s compatriot Graham Henry who, like him, was in charge of Wales at the time.

But under the current New Zealand coach the Lions lost 2-1 in Australia.

However, that was a success compared to the last Lions tour, three years ago when, with England’s 2003 World Cup-winning supremo Sir Clive Woodward in charge, they suffered a 3-0 series whitewash against New Zealand.

Sapa-AFP –   

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