Gatland reveals WRU support


Gatland reveals WRU support

Warren Gatland has revealed he has a gentleman's agreement with Welsh Rugby Union boss Roger Lewis to be released if asked to coach the British and Irish Lions in 2017.

Wales head coach Gatland signed a new six-year contract on Monday, committing his long-term future to the WRU.

The 50-year-old is already Wales' longest-serving coach, but this new deal will extend his tenure to 12 years, taking in both the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups.

Former Ireland and Wasps coach Gatland said there is no clause written into his new contract that allows a sabbatical to coach the Lions.

But the series-winning 2013 Lions coach said WRU chief executive Roger Lewis has pledged to do "everything he can" to help Gatland lead the Lions in his native New Zealand in 2017.

Gatland handed the Wales reins to Robert Howley for the 2012 season, as he prepared for the Lions' 2013 tour to Australia.

And it looks likely the former Waikato hooker could do exactly the same in 2016.

Gatland said: "The contract this time is exactly the same as what I had last time.

"And I've spoken to Roger Lewis.

"If I had the opportunity to be involved again, that's going to be because of Wales being successful in the next couple of years.

"If my whole focus and contemplation is on Wales then if Wales are successful then you put yourself in the frame.

"Then after that it's potentially maybe the Lions approaching you, then it's negotiating release with the WRU.

"And that's exactly what happened in 2012 before the Lions this year.

"So nothing's changed with regard to that, and Roger's said to me even though there's not a release in my contract he will do everything he can to help support me, and to hopefully make it happen if I did happen to get offered that position again.

"But it's not something that I'm contemplating at the moment or thinking about, my whole focus is on Wales doing well.

"If Wales do well then potentially other opportunities open up."

Keen to be involved in a third Lions tour, Gatland said coaching Britain and Ireland's top stars has a reciprocal benefit for his Wales job.

He said: "You're involved with other people, people come from different environments and it's always about the sharing of ideas.

"That's what's special about the Lions, and the chance to work with the top players in the northern hemisphere.

"It's incredibly stimulating for coaches and players, and everyone involved.

"And that's what you want to have a chance for, to be able to challenge yourself to be involved at the highest level.

"I've been very fortunate to have been involved in the last two tours, as assistant and then as head coach.

"So it is a stimulus that you look forward to, but you get a huge amount out of as well."

WRU chief executive Lewis revealed this new deal has taken more than a year to come to fruition, and marks a shot in the arm for Welsh rugby.

Lewis said Gatland deserves credit for installing a "meticulous and professional coaching structure".

Lewis said: "By signing him for a further four years we have ensured that the systems now in place will continue to develop for the future of the international game in Wales.

"It is so important that we achieve continuity at the highest level, which is why we have negotiated our Wales international touring fixture schedule right through until 2019.

"The process which led to this moment began in earnest more than a year ago and it has taken an incredible amount of hard work and negotiation to make sure we got this right for Wales and for Warren."

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