Saturday 24 September 2016

Ireland's Lions hopefuls have 'huge' chance to impress, insists Gatland

Published 08/09/2016 | 02:30

British and Irish Lions Coach Warren Gatland during a press conference at Standard Life House, Edinburgh. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
British and Irish Lions Coach Warren Gatland during a press conference at Standard Life House, Edinburgh. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Warren Gatland believes Ireland's Lions hopefuls have an opportunity to steal a march on their rivals from England, Scotland and Wales because they get two shots at taking down the All Blacks this November.

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New Zealand's other autumn internationals are against France and Italy, meaning Joe Schmidt's charges are the only potential tourists who will get a chance to prove their worth against the world champions.

Gatland was yesterday confirmed as the coach for next year's tour of his homeland and he will travel to New Zealand today to inspect venues and take in the All Blacks' meetings with Argentina on Saturday and South Africa a week later.

He is hoping to attend Ireland's clash with Steve Hansen's men in Chicago on November 7 and is likely to be in Dublin when they come to town a fortnight later.

"Only Ireland are playing them, in Chicago and a game in Dublin," Gatland said after his unveiling in Edinburgh.

Cracks

"England, Scotland and Wales don't get a crack at them. New Zealand will be quite happy with that. Maybe that is advantage to us. They're not having a huge look at us.

"It's huge for Irish boys, yes. Two cracks. It's a good chance for them."

Gatland's backroom team will be announced on December 7 and Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell and scrum coach Greg Feek are in the running to be involved.

Many believe that taking on the back-to-back world champions in their own back yard, where they have not lost a game since 2009, is the impossible job but Gatland doesn't see it that way.

"Not at all. I wouldn't be doing the job if I thought that," he said.

"I'm the eternal optimist. If you look at the players who are out there we have some real quality.

"There is genuine pace, great footwork; players with experience, size, physicality and hopefully belief and confidence.

"That's the important thing. You have to get on that plane believing you are part of a set-up that can go to New Zealand and win."

Irish Independent

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