Lions close on coach Gatland for 2013 tour

 

Warren Gatland does not yet have the Triple Crown, the Six Nations title or the Grand Slam this season. But just two games into this Championship and it already appears he has sewn up the Lions' head-coaching job.

Certainly the Welsh Rugby Union believes he has done enough to see off the challenge of the Ireland and Scotland coaches, Declan Kidney and Andy Robinson respectively. The WRU was recently approached by the Lions committee about how long they would be prepared to release the Kiwi for over the 2013 tour to Australia, and a board meeting last week approved a six-month absence, suggested by chief executive Roger Lewis.

Andy Irvine, the Lions team manager, had previously declared the head coach would have to be full-time and "be available effectively a year out". There is a five-month break clause in Gatland's contract, but in the spirit of compromise the WRU has offered the Lions another month. This means Gatland will be in charge of this year's autumn Test matches for Wales, but would then hand the reins over to Rob Howley, the current skills coach, for the Six Nations.

The decision will ultimately be made after the current Six Nations, but, in reality, the choice is made. It is a role for which Gatland has hankered since he was Sir Ian McGeechan's assistant on the 2009 tour to South Africa. "That was a huge honour and if the opportunity came along again it would be fantastic," said Gatland. He left the WRU in no doubt about his enthusiasm.

Yesterday Gatland was waiting on the news of a scan on the ankle George North sprained in Sunday's 27-13 victory over Scotland. The 19-year-old will hope to be fit for the collision with England at Twickenham a week on Saturday, when Wales could win the Triple Crown. Yet the fretting over North is negated by the impending return to fitness of several potential first-teamers.

Captain Sam Warburton is almost certain to recover from the dead leg which led to his late withdrawal on Sunday, while Alun-Wyn Jones, the lock, played for the Ospreys on the weekend, Matthew Rees, the hooker, is believed to be close to recovery from a calf injury and another flanker in Justin Tipuric is also expected to be fit.

Scrum-half Mike Phillips believes that Wales, despite England's struggles so far, will need to be at their strongest to stay on track for a third Grand Slam in eight years. "It doesn't matter if we're favourite or not," he said, no doubt mindful Wales have won at Twickenham only once in the last quarter-century. "We will go up there full of confidence and do what we have been doing. But we know it will be tough."

Nevertheless, Phillips was far from impressed with England's performance in Rome. "Italy threw it away," he said. "They were up by nine points and in control, and then they threw the game away. But to be fair to England, they have had two wins, and a win is a win. It is important we go up there with a solid defence because they have got some threatening, dangerous players."

Yesterday, England assembled at their base in Surrey, with the coach Stuart Lancaster running his eye over the likes of Toby Flood and the fit-again Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi. The trio were called up for the 30-man squad on Sunday and could provide the cutting edge England have been missing.

1Tom Palmer, the England second-rower, will rejoin Wasps next season after agreeing a two-year contract yesterday. The 32-year-old left Adams Park for Stade Français in 2009. Palmer will again team up with the England back-rower James Haskell, who has been playing in Japan and will have a season of Super 15 with New Zealand's Highlanders before rejoining Wasps.

Suggested Topics
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence