Gatland the new Lion King
In what has come as little surprise to anyone, Warren Gatland has been named as Lions head coach for the 2013 tour to Australia.
By Declan Whooley
In one of rugby’s worst kept secrets, Lions chairman Gerald Davies and tour manager Andy Irvine confirmed that the 48 year-old Kiwi will take charge of next summer's tour in Australia.
Irvine thanked the Welsh Rugby Union for releasing Gatland and added that his record is 'second to none'.
Gatland himself was clearly honoured to be chosen as the head coach.
“This is the highest honour - to be selected as Lions coach. It is the pinnacle of any coach's career. It is a huge honour but also a huge responsibility. It will be one hell of a challenge," he told the waiting press.
Gatland will take his time to carefully to choose his backroom staff with members of the last tour such as Rob Howley and Graham Rowntree tipped for involvement.
“Over the coming months I will give careful consideration to the make-up of my coaching staff and of course the playing squad itself.”
In truth there had been little competition for the role. After success with Wasps and Waikato, Gatland took over the reigns with Wales in 2007 after their disaterous World Cup campaign. He oversaw a first Welsh victory in Twickenham in 20 years and led the team to two Grand Slams. In last year’s World Cup they came agonisingly close to pipping the French for a place in the World Cup final.
Gatland also stated that he was on the mend after breaking both heels after falling off a ladder during the summer that forced him to miss the Welsh tour of Australia.
“I’m still hobbling about a bit but I am happy with progress I have made in terms of the injury,” he said.
The New Zealander already has Lions experience having been the forwards coach on the tour to South Africa three years ago. He proved to be a popular choice among the players who thought highly of his methods and ability to extract the highest standards from those around him.
This clip shows a fired-up Gatland stoking the emotions of the players in the third and final test against South Africa in Johannesburg. Anyone offended at some choice language are better off to mute the clip and appreciate the body language and facial expressions.
The Lions lost their last tour on Australian soil in 2001, fondly remembered by Irish fans when Brian O’Driscoll launched himself on the global stage. Speculation will now turn on who will skipper the Lions with Sam Warburton bookies favourite to take the captain's armband from Paul O’Connell.
While it would be great to see another Irishman follow in O’Driscoll’s and O’Connell’s footsteps, Warburton is currently the outstanding candidate for the role. Should he get the role he will have two of the most experienced vice-captains of all time to call on should he need any advice.