British & Irish Lions
Woodward warning for Gatland
ESPN Staff
June 18, 2012
Sir Clive Woodward OBE, Director of Sport for the British Olympic Association speaks during a IOC meetings, Westminster Bridge Park Plaza, London, England, April 6, 2011
Sir Clive Woodward believes next year's Lions tour could be detrimental to Wales quest for Rugby World Cup glory in 2015 © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Warren Gatland | Clive Woodward
Teams: Wales

Sir Clive Woodward believes next year's British & Irish Lions tour could severely impact on Wales' hopes of success at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Woodward, who took charge of the Lions for what proved to be a disastrous tour of New Zealand in 2005, has backed Wales coach Warren Gatland to lead them to Australia next year but warned that the honour may come at a price.

"Whoever coaches the Lions, and I think it should be Warren, has to be really careful," Woodward told BBC Wales. "Wales have an outstanding team and, I think, they could go all the way in 2015, and you don't want anything to get in the way of that.

"He has to manage that process and almost has to get the Welsh team to really want him to do the Lions. They have to understand that stuff is going to happen on a Lions trip that can go wrong and that means your mojo isn't intact."

Gatland, who steered Wales to the Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year, is widely expected to be confirmed as the Lions coach with negotiations for a temporary release from the Welsh Rugby Union already reportedly underway. The Lions committee are reportedly demanding the coach dedicates themselves completely to the job in the year leading up to the tour with a recent domestic injury sustained by Gatland preventing this and apparently delaying his appointment.

Gatland's predecessor Graham Henry attempted to combine both roles in the lead up to the 2001 Lions tour of Australia and a series defeat against the Wallabies was followed by his resignation from the Wales job a few months later.

However, Woodward is convinced that Gatland is the right man to lead the Lions Down Under. "I would say Warren is definitely the right man out of all the Home Nations candidates," he said. "He is the stand out candidate, but doing the Lions is not easy and there is no doubt it could affect your home team.

"You have to manage the Lions; you're not picking Welsh players and have to get on with players you normally go to war with. You are not there to be popular and you have to make the tough calls."

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