Gatland: Lions can knock over All Blacks

Wed, 07 Sep 2016 13:13

REACTION: Warren Gatland believes his British and Irish Lions can trump their series win under him in 2013 and defeat world champions New Zealand.

The B&I Lions face the back-to-back World Cup champion All Blacks in a three-Test series next year.

Gatland's appointment as head coach was confirmed on Wednesday.

The 52-year-old Wales coach - who guided the Lions to a 2-1 series win over Australia in 2013 - faces a monumental task in overcoming his fellow New Zealanders as the B&I Lions have won just one series in New Zealand, back in 1971.

However, Gatland, who was also part of the coaching set-up under Ian McGeechan in the Lions tour of South Africa seven years ago, said unlike most people he fancied the Lions chances of emulating John Dawes' 1971 vintage and beating the All Blacks.

"For the All Blacks a Lions series is the ultimate test, but I'm 100 percent confident that we can go and win in New Zealand," said Gatland, who had the misfortune to be a hooker when the legendary Sean Fitzpatrick was the undisputed number one choice for the All Blacks and as a result was never capped.

Gatland, who has a woeful record as Wales coach against the southern Hemisphere sides winning just two out of 33 Tests since he took the reins in 2008, will finalise his coaching team by the end of the year and he was positively purring at the thought of once again taking charge of the best talent from the four countries.

"The chance to work with the best players from the four Home Nations is a coach's dream and we have some outstanding talent to select from," said Gatland, who has guided Wales to two Six Nations Grand Slams.

"Likewise, there are some outstanding coaches who could potentially be involved and we'll look to announce them in December.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how they and the players get on domestically, in Europe and internationally."

Gatland received the stamp of approval from tour manager John Spencer, who will accompany the coach on a trip to New Zealand on Thursday.

"His international track record speaks for itself and he also understands the essence of the Lions and how to unite four nations in one purpose," said Spencer.

"Warren is acutely aware of the challenges we will face in New Zealand and we're confident he's the right man to lead us to a series victory."

With the contracts of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and England's Eddie Jones not allowing for secondment to the Lions, officials appeared to have opted for Gatland over Scotland's Vern Cotter without much hesitation.

Gatland will be at the helm for the toughest assignment in the game with a three-Test series against the All Blacks the culmination of a 10-fixture tour that includes five games against Super Rugby opposition and a clash with the Maori.

Adding to his problems is a fixture pile-up domestically.

The Lions' first match in New Zealand takes place early in June, just a week after the English Premiership and Pro12 finals.

With many potential squad members set to be involved in those matches, the Lions coach will have reduced preparation time with key players prior to the Tests.

Mark McCall, Director of Rugby at English Premiership champions Saracens, has labelled the Lions' schedule "ludicrous" and concerns over their fixture programme are compounded by the knowledge they will be up against a superb All Blacks team, even by the exacting standards of New Zealand rugby union.  

Match schedule for the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand:
June 3: v Provincial Union team (Whangarei)
June 7: v Blues (Eden Park, Auckland)
June 10: v Crusaders (Christchurch)
June 13: v Highlanders (Dunedin)
June 17: v Maori (Rotorua)
June 20: v Chiefs (Hamilton)
June 24: v NEW ZEALAND, 1ST TEST (Eden Park, Auckland)
June 27: v Hurricanes (Wellington)
July 1: v NEW ZEALAND, 2ND TEST (Wellington)
July 8: v NEW ZEALAND, 3RD TEST (Eden Park, Auckland)

Agence France-Presse  

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