British & Irish Lions
Greenwood backs Gatland to coach British & Irish Lions in 2017
Tom Hamilton
November 6, 2015
© (Canterbury)

Will Greenwood believes Wales coach Warren Gatland is the favourite to coach the British & Irish Lions on their 10-game tour of New Zealand in 2017.

Greenwood toured with the Lions in 1997, 2001 and 2005 winning two Test caps and despite the Rugby World Cup finishing less than a week ago, the attention is already shifting to the famous touring side's next jaunt to the southern hemisphere. The Lions' record in New Zealand makes for pretty dismal reading as their last series win was in 1971, but Greenwood feels the Lions could turn to one of the Kiwis' own for the tour in two years' time.

Gatland, who was born in Hamilton and has coached the Chiefs, oversaw the Lions' 2-1 series win over Austrlaia in 2013 and is the favourite to take the reins again.

"Vern Cotter has done a wonderful job at Scotland, Joe Schmidt has taken Ireland to back-to-back championships," Greenwood told ESPN. "The England coaches might be behind the cue ball and slightly snookered but a big Six Nations changes everything.

"But the man [Warren Gatland] who led the Lions to the series win in Australia is the bookies' favourite. You could see Gatland alongside Schmidt, Rob Howley and those sorts of guys. There are some wonderful coaches."

Three of the four home nations are currently coached by Kiwis but Greenwood does not believe appointing a New Zealand-born coach is a prerequisite for their mission to beat the All Blacks.

"It's the greatest challenge of them all as this is the greatest All Blacks team," Greenwood added. "Even though they are losing players to retirement, their ability to seamlessly transition from one player to the next is an extraordinary achievement. It's not necessarily the case of having a Kiwi coach because the tour is in New Zealand, most of the coaches in the frame will have coached in New Zealand and they will understand how intense it is over there. But they will need a coach who is experienced of facing down those pressures and winning."

The recent World Cup was dominated by southern hemisphere sides but there were some impressive performances from the home nations' players. Greig Laidlaw and Alun Wyn Jones were part of a six-man shortlist for World Rugby Player of the Year and Greenwood sees plenty of promise and established talent in the ranks ahead of the two in two years' time. He also believes those based overseas will stake their claim for a spot on the tour.

"Teamship and commonality of cause are crucial to victory," Greenwood said of those in the Lions frame. "You are looking at those who have performed well in this World Cup but you can have a punt on people like Maro Itoje who might appear.

"But then in reality you have the likes of Mark Bennett, Tommy Seymour, Jonny Gray and Stuart Hogg and then you move over to Ireland and you are looking at Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray, Peter O'Mahony, Johnny Sexton and Sean O'Brien.

"For Wales if you look at their starting XV, most of them were starting Lions in 2013 - people like Sam Warburton, George North and Dan Biggar will all be key. Into England, we hope as many as possible will stick their hands up over the next few years with Joe Launchbury, Dylan Hartley, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph and Henry Slade all up there. And you can't ignore those in France - players like Jonathan Davies, Nick Abendanon and Steffon Armitage. It's like having a squash ladder; people get moved up and down. For the English lads, they have two years to fix it."

Will Greenwood was speaking on behalf of Canterbury, Official Apparel Partner of the British & Irish Lions who have marked the announcement with a commemorative re-issue of the 1959 shirt

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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