Scotland poser for Lions coach
Mon, 31 Dec 2012 07:15
Representation for the Scots is challenging
The poor form of Scotland is a major concern to British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland, who is hoping to end a 16-year drought in Australia next year.
Gatland is adamant all four Home Nations will be represented in the squad when the Lions head Down Under in June.
However, he admitted that not too many Scots have put up their hands recently and that is a concern to the New Zealander.
"It wouldn't bother me if I picked 15 Englishmen if I thought they were best equipped to beat Australia," he told the Mail On Sunday.
"I don't think the make-up of the team is the main criteria for getting the job done, although I believe all four nations should have representations in the squad for the morale of the tour.
"That's why I hope that Scotland enjoy a good Six Nations, because I don't think I'm speaking out of turn to say representation for the Scots is challenging."
At this stage the only Scots that look certainties like making the 35-man touring part are lock Richie Gray and wing Tim Visser.
In deciding his best approach, Gatland has sought advice from two of his predecessors - Ian McGeechan, his boss on the 2009 tour to South Africa, and fellow Kiwi Graham Henry, who was also Wales coach when he led an ultimately unsuccessful tour to Australia in 2001.
"Graham told me that coaching the Lions gave him some of the most valuable lessons he ever learned, lessons that he put to good use when he won the World Cup last year for New Zealand," Gatland said.
"He also boosted my confidence by saying how I'm miles more experienced than he was at this point. He was appointed Lions coach 18 months after taking over in Wales. I've been coaching in the Northern Hemisphere for the vast majority of the last 24 years.
"New Zealand try to claim me as a Kiwi coach but, while I was a Kiwi player, I'm most definitely a Northern Hemisphere coach, and very proud to be so."
He will also have a lot of input from the Six Nations coaches.
"Stuart Lancaster has offered to let me spend a day watching England train, as has Declan Kidney with Ireland," Gatland said.
"It's important people feel comfortable and know me well enough to realise I'm not going to go running back to Wales with trade secrets. That would insult me and the coaches' integrity. If anything, my problem is trying not to be too hard on the Welsh to prove I'm totally unbiased.
"The coach's input is vital. I know the players and I can see their stats but I'll need help to choose the right personalities, an ingredient just as important on a Lions tour."
He wants consistency from all contenders during the Six Nations, something which has been lacking.
"If I'd picked the squad after the 2012 Six Nations then there would have been a lot of Welsh Grand Slam winners in it," he told the Mail on Sunday.
"After the November Tests this wouldn't be the case. If I have the England win over New Zealand in mind then a lot of those guys put their hand up.
"If we get it right on and off the field we will have a hell of a team, and if that's the case then we'll beat Australia. It's my job now to make sure that happens."
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