Thursday 27 October 2016

No grudge: Brian O'Driscoll backs old foe Gatland for Lions job ahead of Schmidt

Published 08/04/2016 | 07:37

Warren Gatland, right, and Brian O'Driscoll
Warren Gatland, right, and Brian O'Driscoll

Wales coach Warren Gatland would probably be the best person to coach the British and Irish Lions on their tour of New Zealand next year, according to former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll.

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New Zealander Gatland controversially dropped O'Driscoll for the final test when he led the Lions to a series victory over Australia in 2013, preferring instead to use an all-Welsh combination of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in the centres.

The Lions hammered Australia 41-16 to clinch the series 2-1, a result which ultimately cost Wallabies coach Robbie Deans his job.

O'Driscoll, who retired from international rugby in 2014 having notched 133 test caps for Ireland and another eight with the Lions, however, felt Gatland would be ideal for the job again given the short time the team had to gel before the tour.

"You have to think its between Gats (Gatland) and Joe Schmidt," O'Driscoll told The Telegraph newspaper in Britain.

"I think having been under Gats in 2013 - and he was a coach in 2009 as well - his style is probably something that lends itself to the short lead-in time."

Gatland, who was forwards coach under Ian McGeechan on the Lions tour of South Africa in 2009, has said he would relish the opportunity to lead the Lions on their tour of his homeland.


Ireland coach Schmidt and Scotland's Vern Cotter are also possibilities for the job. All three are New Zealanders.

England's Grand Slam-winning coach Eddie Jones has already ruled himself out of contention and backed Gatland for the role.

The Lions will play 10 matches on their tour next year, playing all five Super Rugby franchises, the Maori All Blacks, a provincial union selection and three tests against Steve Hansen's All Blacks.

The Lions coach is expected to be named after the northern hemisphere sides' tours in June, with Wales touring New Zealand, Ireland heading to South Africa and England playing in Australia. Scotland will face Japan.

The Lions have won just one of 11 series in New Zealand, with the 1971 side coached by Carwyn James and led by centre John Dawes clinching the four-match series 2-1, with the fourth test at Eden Park a 14-14 draw.

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