British & Irish Lions Tour of Australia
Gatland moves closer to Lions role
ESPN Staff
August 22, 2012
Wales coach Warren Gatland dictates proceedings, Wales training session, Vale of Glamorgan Resort, Cardiff, Wales, August 4, 2011
Wales coach Warren Gatland is close to being appointed to the top job with the British & Irish Lions © Getty Images

Wales boss Warren Gatland has confirmed that he is close to being appointed coach for the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia next year.

Speaking at Waikato University, the former Wasps coach said that he is set to meet with Lions officials upon his return to the UK prior to an announcement on September 4.

Should the appointment go ahead as planned, Gatland will take 10 months out to work towards the tour, although special dispensation has been arranged to allow him to link-up with Wales in the build-up to their November Tests against New Zealand and Australia.

"I go back [to Britain] on Sunday and I've got to go to Scotland for a couple of days planning with a couple of people from the Lions," he told WA Today. "And then there's an announcement on September 4.

"We still haven't signed anything yet but it's very close, and if I do take the position I'll be seconded to the Lions for 10 months, but they've allowed me to be involved in the All Blacks Test for that week, and the Australian week. I won't coach the Samoa and Argentinian weeks or be involved in the Six Nations. I think that's trying to give the position some neutrality."

Gatland served as one of Sir Ian McGeechan's deputies on the Lions' 2009 tour to South Africa and is excited by the possibility of returning to what is a challenging format - recalling the difficulties of the 2005 vintage in New Zealand, who were coached by Sir Clive Woodward.

"The great thing about the tour is that it's the old-style tour," he said. "It's 10 games in Australia - the first game is in Hong Kong against the Barbarians, and then we play the five Super Rugby franchises and three Tests against Australia, and I think a game against NSW Country.

"It's a great chance to mould players from four different countries together is such a short period. I think we get them for about a week before we go on tour, and it's a great experience.

"It's difficult to do. As a concept you want the Lions to be successful. After 2005, they brought two teams and got well beaten, and it was almost as if people were talking about getting rid of the Lions, but it does generate massive amounts to the country that is hosting the Lions. The television deal is huge. It's important that the Lions in their own right are successful as an entity."

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