We can beat the All Blacks, says Lions coach Warren Gatland
Appointed on Wednesday, 52-year-old faces monumental task in three-test series in New Zealand next year but is confident of causing a major upset
Warren Gatland believes his British and Irish Lions can trump their series win under him in 2013 and defeat world champions New Zealand in their three-test rugby series next year after being appointed coach 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 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 per cent 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.
The three-test series against the All Blacks will be the culmination of a 10-fixture tour that includes five games against Super Rugby opposition and a clash with the New Zealand Maori side.