It’s been widely rumoured all week – in fact Scrum V pundit Ross Harries described it as “the worst kept secret in rugby” – but today Warren Gatland was finally unveiled as the Head Coach of the British and Irish Lions for their tour to New Zealand next summer.
Gatland hands over the reins of the Wales team once again to his deputy and legendary ex-Wales scrum-half Rob Howley with immediate effect, in order to concentrate on the most prestigious coaching role in British and Irish rugby.
Personally, I think Warren Gatland’s appointment is the correct move. He has tasted enormous success as a coach in Europe, winning the Heineken Cup with Wasps and guiding Wales to two Six Nations Grand Slams. This will be his third Lions tour, his second as Head Coach following his assistant coaching role during the 2009 tour of South Africa. Perhaps most significantly, he guided the Lions to a series victory over Australia last time out. He is a shrewd operator and is not afraid of ruffling a few feathers when a massive decision needs to be made. Who can forget his omission of Brian O’Driscoll in the final test game against Australia in 2013? When a big call needs to be made, Gatland has little time for sentiment, and this sort of approach is just what the Lions will need against the All Blacks.
It will be interesting to see how many of the current Wales crop of players make the tour, especially in the wake of this summer’s whitewash by the All Blacks. I’m sure this will be a hot topic of debate for the whole of the coming season, and let’s hope it brings the very best out of our very best players.