Warren Gatland has confirmed that he’s spoken to Stuart Lancaster about the 2021 Lions tour of South Africa.
However it is unclear if Lancaster will be part of Gatland’s coaching ticket. The New Zealand native admitted he’s spoken to the Leinster coach but that he planned on speaking to a number of other people.
Stuart Lancaster Lions
“I’ve spoken to Stuart and we’ve had a couple of conversations,” Gatland said on Will Greenwood’s podcast.
“I think you’ve got to take your hat off to Stuart. He finished with England, then he’s gone away and he’s done some professional development; gone around and looked at other sports, and then he’s taken up this role with Leinster.
“There’s definitely for him a lot of things that he would have learned from that experience.
🗣"He's definitely one person that I've spoken to. But there's a number of other people that I'll be looking at"
Nice words on Stuart Lancaster – @lionsofficial coaching role?
Warren Gatland joins us on the pod this week.
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— Will Greenwood (@WillGreenwood) August 3, 2020
“There’s no doubt what he’s done and the impact that he’s had since his time with Leinster. He’d say that he’s definitely improved as a coach and I have a huge amount of respect for him.
“We met before the last tour and he spoke to me about his opinions on the Leinster players and the Irish players and gave me an insight into them and I appreciated that.
“He’s definitely one person that I’ve spoken to and had a couple of conversations with him, but there’s a number of other people that I’ll be looking to talk to.”
Gatland has rarely made wholesale changes to his Lions coaching ticket. In 2013, Rob Howley was his attack coach, Graham Rowntree the forwards’ coach and Andy Farrell the defence coach.
In 2017, Howley and Farrell retained their positions. Steve Borthwick was appointed forwards coach while Rowntree looked after the scrum. Gatland admits that continuity is important for the touring sides.
“One of the things that I’ve found really, really important is that, yes, you want to make a few changes and you want to bring some new faces and new voices in, but you don’t want a clean sweep,” Gatland said.
“You want to have some continuity because things happen pretty quickly, you have limited time in terms of preparation.
“You don’t want to go into a Lion’s tour and try and reinvent the wheel. Having some continuity with support staff and coaches that have been there and understand the complexities and how tough it is – that makes a big difference.
“That’s definitely something that I’ve found from 2009 to now.”
With regards to the Saracens players, Gatland admitted he’s spoken to Mark McCall. The former Wales boss remains positive that the Saracens contingent will be ready by the time the tour comes around.
“I’ve spoken to Mark McCall [Saracens director of rugby] as well, and he’s very supportive of the Lions and how he can facilitate to get his players involved,” Gatland said.
“We understand that maybe playing in the Championship is not going to be quite the same level, but hopefully those players are going to get a significant amount of international rugby between now and the tour.
“And if you look at them, a lot of them are pretty experienced and pretty seasoned campaigners as well.
“Maybe the positive thing about the Saracens players is they’re going to play some Test matches. They’re going to be playing some Championship matches, but they’re going to come on tour really refreshed and really excited. Maybe in better shape than a lot of other players because they haven’t had quite the same level of intensity.
“I’m just speculating about that at the moment. It’s just a matter of wait and see.
“It’s not as if those players aren’t experienced or haven’t achieved at the highest level. A lot of them who have been involved with England or been on previous Lions tours have been very much at the top of the game.
“So I don’t really have any concerns and worries about what state they’re going to be in, because I think they’re going to get enough top-level rugby before the tour.”