British & Irish Lions
WRU confirm Gatland is wanted by Lions
March 26, 2012
Wales boss Warren Gatland served as an assistant to coach Sir Ian McGeechan on the Lions tour of South Africa in 2009 © Getty Images
The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has confirmed that the British & Irish Lions are hoping to secure the services of Wales coach Warren Gatland for their tour of Australia next year.
Gatland is the overwhelming favourite to land the coveted role of Lions coach having steered his side to the second Grand Slam of his tenure in this year's Six Nations. Reports over the weekend suggested that the New Zealander has been offered the post and WRU chief executive Roger Lewis has revealed that talks have taken place.
"We have had informal discussions with the British and Irish Lions over the last few months and we have talked to Warren about this for the best part of a year," Lewis told The Guardian. "If the Lions approach us formally and ask us to free Warren from his contract for the Australia tour, we will negotiate the terms of his release with them. Warren does not have a clause in his contract which contains provision for him to coach the Lions, but we are hugely supportive of him and them."
However, Lewis also outlined his desire to ensure Gatland does not abandon his Wales duties by way of preparation for 2013 should he be given the nod. "What I will say is that there is no question that Warren will not be leading Wales on our very important tour to Australia and I, personally, would like him to be involved in our autumn Tests against New Zealand and Australia in Cardiff.
"This is all for the future as we have had no formal approach from the Lions yet and my understanding is that no decision about the head coach will be announced until the beginning of May."
The Lions committee have previously stated their desire to secure a coach on a 12-month contract so the chosen candidate can focus solely on shaping his squad and management team from the start of the next domestic campaign. Should Gatland be granted a temporary release from his current WRU contract, that runs until the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, assistants Rob Howley and Robin McBryde are in line to take charge of the side for the autumn internationals and next year's Six Nations.
Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards and England assistant coach Graham Rowntree, who also formed part of the 2009 Lions' coaching team, are strongly tipped to form part of Gatland's backroom staff for the 2013 tour.
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