2013 British & Irish Lions
McGeechan backs Gatland to shine
ESPN Staff
September 4, 2012
Ian McGeechan on Warren Gatland's appointment

Sir Ian McGeechan has backed new Lions coach Warren Gatland to deliver the goods on their tour of Australia in 2013.

McGeechan is synonymous with the Lions having played for them in 1974 and 1977 and led them as coach in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2009. And with series wins to his name in 1989 and 1997, McGeechan knows better than most what it takes to return from the southern hemisphere with a Test victory.

Gatland worked under McGeechan in 2009 as forwards coach and his previous boss has backed him to shine in Australia.

"Warren was brilliant in South Africa in 2009 - I can't say enough about him. He understands the Lions ethos and has huge respect for it," McGeechan said. "He was a brilliant assistant coach three years ago, but he knows all about being the No.1 guy after so many years in that position with Connacht, Ireland, London Wasps and Wales.

"He was always the outstanding candidate for the top job in Australia next year. He has a great rugby brain and he is a good man manager. The other great thing about Gats is that he shares things and is prepared to put everything out there on the table. He gets huge respect from the players for that.

"He has the ability to pull players together. He has coached in Ireland, England and Wales and he has always taken on board the strengths and ideas from those countries. He has become used to working with players from different countries over the past 14 or so years and has always learned along the way. That's such a critical issue with the Lions."

Gatland will have limited time with the team prior to their first match of the tour against Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1 and McGeechan has emphasised that the Wales boss must get his off-field set-up sorted and settled before they fly out.

"One of the biggest challenges for the Lions is to get the chemistry right as much with the management as with the players," McGeechan said. "I know that Gats will make sure the management will produce the best possible environment for the players.

"You have five or six weeks in which to build a team before the first Test and that means you need to keep things simple and straightforward. Warren will have to blend a new group of players in Australia and I don't think there is a better man for the job.

"I know the way I felt when I got the Lions position for the first time. It is something you never dream of doing, but when you get the chance you quickly realise the enormous responsibility that comes with the job and the fantastic feeling of excitement."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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