WARREN GATLAND, who will lead the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2021, has agreed a four-year deal to coach New Zealand Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs. The contract has a 12-month break in it from August 2020 so that he can fulfil his Lions commitments.
Gatland is due to step down after 11 highly successful years as Wales head coach after the World Cup and will return to his native New Zealand to work with the Chiefs during the 2020, 2022 and 2023 Super Rugby campaigns.
From a Lions perspective,
Gatland’s relocation to the southern hemisphere means he will not be able to watch much live rugby in the northern hemisphere from the end of the World Cup to the start of the domestic season in September 2020, relying heavily instead on television or second-hand scouting reports. On the flip side, he will be well placed to monitor South Africa’s leading players before the 2021 series against the Springboks.
Gatland’s decision to take the Chiefs job seems to have the full support of the Lions hierarchy. His family home is in Hamilton and his son, Bryn, is playing professional rugby in New Zealand. Gatland has already made it clear he has no interest in coaching England’s national team.
Gatland had a stormy time when he coached the Lions to a 1-1 series draw in New Zealand in 2017, with the Kiwi press taking a dim view of a native New Zealander coaching the famous touring side against their beloved All Blacks, but perspectives change quickly in sport and this appointment puts him firmly in the frame to coach New Zealand at some point in the future, following in the footsteps of Graham Henry and Steve Hansen in going from the Wales job to the All Blacks job.
Gatland also led the Lions to a 2-1 series win against Australia in 2013.
Ahead of the 2017 tour, Gatland was asked about the possibility of taking Scotland’s then head coach Vern Cotter as an assistant. He dismissed the idea on the basis that his fellow New Zealander had already accepted a coaching appointment with Montpellier in France.
“Probably not,” said Gatland. “If he’s not contributing to Lions rugby [after the tour] it probably counts him out a little bit. If he’d stayed in Scotland or one of the home nations then his experience could have been invaluable but it’s unfortunate …. He made the decision to go to France and good luck to him.”
Gatland selected only Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour from Scotland in his initial squad for the 2017 Lions tour, while in 2013 he took Richie Gray, Sean Maitland and Hogg first up.