Ollie Phillips: Warren Gatand should groom Andy Farrell as his British and Irish Lions successor
Warren Gatlands unveiling as the British and Irish Lions coach on Wednesday was hardly surprising, but it was an appointment which makes a great deal of sense. Gatland is one of the best coaches in the world and has plenty of motivation on what will be his third Lions tour, to South Africa in 2021. Having gone undefeated in Australia in 2013 and New Zealand two years ago he can write himself into the history books as the most successful Lions coach if he completes the hat-trick in two years time. Read more:Warren Gatland has unfinished business with the Lions His record in international and club rugby shows hes a special individual and I think his style is well suited to the unique environment of the Lions. The 55-year-old is a fantastic coach with a simple, straightforward approach. He blends the old school with the new school, giving players breathing space and trusting them to get it right. Leading the Lions is a completely different dynamic to national team coaching, simply because you have nowhere near as much time to implement your ideas. Theres no building for four years – its about effective and easily understandable communication.
Thats why Gatlands focus on dominating the gain line and staying super organised translates so well. Players from four different nations can come in and immediately get to grips with his ideas. Its worked so far, with 13 wins from 20 games on tour altogether and three in six Test matches.
Building a legacy
The timing is also good. Gatland is stepping down as Wales coach in December following the World Cup, so will be able to focus solely on the Lions from August 2020. I spoke to Lions chairman Jason Leonard recently and he stressed the importance the organisation is now putting on building a legacy. Gatland now has the opportunity to build contacts and put structures in place which will carry on and benefit the Lions well after hes stepped down and perhaps moved back to his native New Zealand.