Jones backs Gatland to lead Lions in 2017

Warren Gatland is the favourite to lead the Lions

England head coach Eddie Jones says Wales coach Warren Gatland is the obvious choice to coach the British and Irish Lions on their 2017 tour to New Zealand.

Gatland was on the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa as an Assistant and in 2013 as head coach he led them to a series win in Australia.

With the tour now less than 500 days before the first match Gatland has been given backing by the Welsh Rugby union and has been described as the “leading contender”

“Warren did a fantastic job in the last tour and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t take them again,” said Jones.

“I think he would be a fantastic choice.”

Jones was appoined as England head coach after Stuart Lancaster’s resignation and said that while it was not a case of him not wanting the Lions job but that he wants to keep his focus on England.

“Not that I’m not interested in coaching the Lions but my commitment is to coach England,” he said in an interview on BBC 5 Live.

“It would take time away from what I’m doing with England. We’ve got four years to get right for the World Cup [in 2019].

“As you know, England are eighth in the world, fourth in Europe. We’ve got to spend every day getting them right and to take time away from doing that wouldn’t be fair on the RFU or on the players.

“I’m not prepared to do that.”

Gatland’s main rival for the British and Irish Lions coaching job is New Zealand born Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

Speaking earlier this week Gatland said that he was not something that he was focused on currently.

“I haven’t had any conversations with anyone. You read things in the media but the Lions takes care of itself.

“It’s something I’ll think about later down the line and the whole focus is on the Six Nations.”

Lions fixtures in New Zealand

3 June – v Provincial union team (Toll Stadium, Whangarei)
7 June – v Blues (Eden Park, Auckland)
10 June – v Crusaders (AMI Stadium, Christchurch)
13 June – v Highlanders (Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin)
17 June – v Maori (International Stadium, Rotorua)
20 June – v Chiefs (Waikato Stadium, Hamilton)
24 June – v New Zealand (First Test, Eden Park, Auckland)
27 June – v Hurricanes (Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
1 July – v New Zealand (Second Test, Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
8 July – v New Zealand (Third Test, Eden Park, Auckland)

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