British & Irish Lions
Gatland 'outstanding candidate' to lead Lions in 2017
ESPN Staff
September 6, 2013
Warren Gatland shunned the limelight after the Lions' series-clinching win over Australia © Getty Images

Wales boss Warren Gatland has been backed to lead the British & Irish Lions to New Zealand in 2017.

Gatland took charge of the famous touring side for their tour to Australia this summer and he masterminded their charge to a first series win since 1997. However, the triumph did not come about without controversy. Gatland picked 10 Wales players in the Lions' starting line-up for the third Test and dropped Brian O'Driscoll, a decision which prompted a huge backlash and criticism which Gatland later labelled "vitriolic".

O'Driscoll has admitted he feels "resentment" towards Gatland for the call while his Leinster team-mate Jamie Heaslip, who started the first two Tests and was dropped for the third, admitted he was "p****d off" to be dropped for the series decider.

Despite the bitterness which still emanates in some quarters regarding Gatland's selection call, Andy Irvine, who was the tour manager for the Lions' trip to Australia, has says the Kiwi has "every chance" of leading the tourists to New Zealand in four years time.

"These discussions will be taking place quite shortly, probably within the next few months," Irvine told Sky Sports' Rugby Club. "I'm only one of a committee of four but I would certainly support it. I think Warren did a great job."

And Lions CEO John Feehan has added weight to these claims and has called Gatland an "outstanding candidate".

"Warren is the winning Lions coach and I am a big fan of him and I think he has done a fantastic job for us but, beyond that, it is still a decision that is two years' away," Feehan told the Telegraph. "It is important to wait a year or two and then look at all the best coaches and draw up a shortlist of prime candidates.

"You then have to ask if they want to do the job, do they have the motivation and are they the right person. If you were picking it today, Warren would be the absolute outstanding candidate. He is a great guy, not just in terms of his rugby but how he managed to help us commercially. He is clued in a pretty much every level."

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