Gatland wary over 'very tough' Lions schedule

Wed, Jan 27, 2016, Posted by   print

2007 World Cup

5:59 PM GMT

Wales coach Warren Gatland said the schedule for the forthcoming British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand is so tough that he would think twice before accepting the honour – but admitted it would be “difficult” to turn the job down.

Gatland has questioned the scheduling which sees the Lions play their first match just a week after the Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO12 finals, on a 10-match tour that includes five matches against the Super Rugby sides and three Tests against the reigning world champions.

The Lions have not won a Test series there since 1971 and though Gatland is seen as one of the two front-runners for the post alongside Ireland’s Joe Schmidt, he joked Schmidt can have the gig such is the rigorous schedule. The identity of the next Lions coach is far from straightforward as Schmidt’s contract with the IRFU prevents him taking the recommended yearlong sabbatical in the run-up, while Gatland has his own reservations.

Sam Warburton sprayed a forecourt with petrol the first time he won selection to Wales’ RBS 6 Nations squad.

The Wales and British & Irish Lions’ captain rarely loses his cool these days, but six years ago he admitted it was a different story.

The Cardiff Blues flanker revealed he still gets the same goosebumps on winning Six Nations selection as his first call-up for the tournament, back in January 2010.

“I’ll never forget that moment in 2010, I was filling up my car with petrol, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be in the squad or not, and the message came through that I had made it,” Warburton said.

“And I still remember the way I reacted, I think I did spill some petrol. I must have shouted out loud or something too. It was just some petrol station in Leicestershire somewhere, I was coming back home from university.

“You still get the same emotions now. It’s still great when that message finally comes through, even now. It’s a tournament you’ve wanted to be involved in all your life. You always feel privileged to be part of it.”

Wales start the Six Nations by taking on Ireland in Dublin on Feb. 7, with Warburton admitting the opening weekend can often dictate the entire tournament’s course.

“If you slip up twice you’ll cost yourself the championship,” Warburton said. “That’s why the first game is so massive, and away games are so tough.”

“He can have the job if he wants,” Gatland joked at the launch of the RBS 6 Nations. “Have you seen the schedule? Going to New Zealand and you play three Tests, five Super Rugby teams and the New Zealand Maori, and you try and win there? With no preparation? He can have it.

“It’s a really tough tour. I’m not saying the Lions can’t win. It’s a tough schedule. It’s the hardest place in the world to play, not just from a rugby perspective but a travel and organisation perspective. Look, it’s not unwinnable but it is very, very tough.”

Sources have told ESPN that after the last Lions tour head coaches of the home nations put forward their suggested schedules for the 2017 trip, but the Lions organisers made the final call on the itinerary, one which sees a relentless pace to the trip.

Gatland knows what it takes to win a series having guided the tourists to a 2-1 series win over the Wallabies in 2013 but he is solely focused on Wales at present.

“When you look at the schedule you go: Premiership Final on the Saturday, the PRO12 on the Saturday,” Gatland said. “The team has a going away dinner on the Sunday. Fly on the Monday, you arrive the Wednesday and your first game is on that Saturday with the squad not even being together?

“Then you play a Test match two or three weeks later? It’s quite tough. I have been very lucky to be involved in a couple of tours and if you get offered the opportunity to be involved again it is a difficult one to turn down. But if you weren’t involved and didn’t get it you might say: ‘thank my lucky stars’, and go and enjoy it as a supporter and spectator and enjoy it from that angle.

“I am a great believer in what will be. I am not thinking about the Lions. Our focus is on the Six Nations and then a tour of New Zealand in the summer. If you do well in those, other things take care of themselves. That is the way my rugby coaching career has been. I haven’t got a rugby CV. I wouldn’t know how to put one together.

“I have been lucky enough to be the right place at the right time and what will be, will be.”

Source Article from http://espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/14658124/warren-gatland-says-british-irish-lions-face-very-tough-schedule-new-zealand-tour

Gatland wary over 'very tough' Lions schedule


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