Wales keep Warren Gatland till 2019 but agree to release him if Lions come calling

Warren Gatland will be free to lead the 2017 Lions if asked

Warren Gatland has revealed he has a gentleman’s agreement with the Welsh Rugby Union to be released if asked to coach the British & Irish Lions in 2017.

Wales head coach Gatland signed a new six-year contract on Monday, committing himself to the WRU in the long term. The 50-year-old is already Wales’ longest-serving coach, but this deal will extend his tenure to 12 years, taking in the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups.

Former Ireland and Wasps coach Gatland said there was no clause written into his new contract that allows a sabbatical to coach the Lions. But the series-winning 2013 Lions coach said that the WRU chief executive Roger Lewis had pledged to do “everything he can” to help Gatland lead the best of British in his native New Zealand in 2017.

Gatland handed the Wales reins to Robert Howley for the 2012 season, as he prepared for the Lions’ 2013 tour to Australia and is expected to do the same in 2016 if asked to lead the Lions again.

“The contract this time is exactly the same as what I had last time,” Gatland said. “If I had the opportunity to be involved again, that’s going to be because of Wales being successful in the next couple of years. If my whole focus and contemplation is on Wales, then if Wales are successful you put yourself in the frame.

“Then after that it’s potentially maybe the Lions approaching you, then it’s negotiating release with the WRU. Roger’s said to me even though there’s not a release in my contract he will do everything he can to help support me, and to hopefully make it happen if I did get offered that position again. But it’s not something I’m contemplating at the moment. My whole focus is on Wales doing well.”

Gatland’s new deal is a rare positive development for Welsh rugby amid unrest from the four regional sides still agitating to create a breakaway Anglo-Welsh league, and the exodus of top stars.

The Lions hooker Richard Hibbard became the latest when he announced he will be leaving Ospreys for Gloucester next season, but Lewis believes retaining Gatland will boost Welsh rugby.

“By signing him for a further four years we have ensured that the systems will continue to develop for the future of the international game in Wales,” Lewis said.

“It is so important that we achieve continuity, which is why we have negotiated our international touring schedule right through until 2019. This began more than a year ago and has taken an incredible amount of hard work to get it right.”

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory