Warren Gatland open to coaching the Lions on 2021 tour of South Africa

Warren Gatland the head coach of the Lions looks on during the third Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park on July 8, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Nick Purewal

Warren Gatland will "never say never" to leading the British and Irish Lions again in future.

he Lions should tour South Africa in 2021, by which time Gatland could so easily be on the coaching staff of his native New Zealand.

The 53-year-old has guided the Lions to a drawn series after the three-Test battle ended one win apiece following Saturday's 15-15 draw in Auckland.

Gatland is on New Zealand's shortlist of candidates to replace head coach Steve Hansen following the 2019 World Cup, when his contract as Wales boss will have expired.

The former Ireland and Wasps coach spearheaded the Lions' 2013 series win in Australia, and admitted there still remains some temptation for another crack of the touring whip.

When asked if he would consider taking the Lions helm again in 2021, Gatland replied: "There's a lot of water to pass under the bridge before that.

"Eddie (England coach Eddie Jones) has put his name forward hasn't he?

"My focus is on Wales, for the autumn internationals and then looking towards the 2019 World Cup. I'm definitely finishing up there, unless they decide to get rid of me sooner!

"So after that I might just go to the beach and put my feet up for a while.

"But you never say never. If there's a chat and opportunity to think about 2021, to do maybe the three as a head coach, to win two and draw one wouldn't be a bad achievement."

The Lions' place in rugby's revised global calendar remains up for negotiation, with Gatland always insistent the tourists need more preparation time.

Gatland's men jetted out to New Zealand just two days after the Premiership and PRO12 finals, and then faced the Provincial Barbarians three days after touching down on Kiwi soil.

World Rugby and the club bodies want the Lions to cut future tours to eight matches, but the tourists themselves are intent on retaining their 10-match schedules - and building in an extra preparation week.

Gatland insisted just one set of midweek matches for Premiership and PRO12 clubs might be enough to create the extra time the Lions need in a domestic game shift that would only be required once every four years.

"I think once the global calendar is put in place then you need to look at where the Lions can fit in," said Gatland.

"This tour is unique and afterwards hopefully people can see the success of the tour, of the fans, the atmosphere, how brilliant it's been.

"I think if you were South African you would be pretty excited about the Lions coming in four years' time.

"There might need to be a little jiggling with the clubs in the UK and Ireland and to have one set of midweek matches.

"All we're asking for is them to do that once every four years."

When asked if Argentina should be added to the Lions' touring roster, Gatland replied: "Why not?

"But are you saying New Zealand would agree to have the Lions tour here every 16 years?"