Gatland: If you don't think we can beat the All Blacks, don't sign up for the Lions tour
Lions coach Warren Gatland says potential players and support staff must erase any doubts they have about beating New Zealand next June if they want to make the tour.
The back-to-back world champions have won 42 consecutive games on home soil, but the man who led the tourists to their series win over Australia in 2013 says he had no hesitation in taking the job.
Gatland was today unveiled as coach at a press conference in Edinburgh, becoming the second man to lead the Lions twice after Ian McGeechan.
And he will fly out to New Zealand tomorrow to scope out venues and take in the All Blacks Rugby Championship matches against Argentina and South Africa as part of his preparations.
The Kiwi does not believe the challenge facing the Lions is insurmountable.
“If there’s people who believe that, players or support staff, don’t get on the plane,” he said.
“I want to put together a team that’s able to go down and be successful in New Zealand. To challenge yourself against the best, there’s no bigger challenge. Everyone’s hugely excited.
“You get offered the biggest job in world rugby against the best opposition and it’s very difficult to walk away from that challenge. It was definitely a yes straight away.
“It’s massive, having experienced being on other side, playing against the Lions I know what it means to have that opposition.
“To lead the team in New Zealand against back to back world champions in their back-yard is a massive challenge and honour and I’m looking forward to the prospect ahead.”
Asked what sort of players he is looking to select, Gatland said: “You want competitors, people with confidence in their ability to go down there and play in a tough environment. That brings its own challenges.
“Often you’re picking players who are used to being No1 and with the Lions you could be No 2 or 3. It’s about how you handle that, you want good people with positive characters who can handle disappointment.”
He will name his backroom staff on December 7, with Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell in the frame as Gatland says he wants “continuity” from the previous tour of Australia.
Lions chief executive John Feehan said that the tour is generating unprecedented interest among fans, of whom 30,000 are expected to travel.
“We’ve never seen anything like the interest,” Feehan. “Sold nearly all of our packages to go on the tour, there’s a few left but compared to any other tour we’ve never had this level of interest.”
The Lions kick off their 10-match tour against a Provincial Union team in Whangarei on July 3 with the first Test three weeks later in Wellington.
The Kiwi will take a leave of absence from his position with Wales as he plots to beat his home country in a test series.