Sir Ian McGeechan backs British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland
Sir Ian McGeechan believes Warren Gatland is a "great choice" to take charge of the British and Irish Lions for tour of Australia
Sir Ian McGeechan has voiced his support for the decision to appoint Warren Gatland as the British and Irish Lions head coach for the tour of Australia in 2013.
The 65-year-old was in charge the last time the Lions secured a series victory in 1997, with Gatland handed the challenge of ending their 15-year wait for a triumph over one of the southern hemisphere nations again in a three-match encounter.
The former Ireland head coach was part of McGeechan’s coaching staff for the last Lions tour which saw the tourists suffer a 2-1 defeat by South Africa.
And McGeechan is confident Gatland will excel in his role, with the former Wasps director of rugby backing his former colleague to extract the best from the Lions squad for the trip Down Under.
“Warren Gatland is a great choice for Lions coach. I’ve great admiration for him – what he does, how he works,” said McGeechan.
“We first came across each other when he was in Ireland and I was at Scotland, I followed him at Wasps.
“We think in similar ways but he’s got a great understanding of players and their mentality, he creates very good environments.
“In 2009, with him, Shaun Edwards, Graham Rowntree, Rob Howley, there was a great feeling; We could talk to each, it was very open.
“One of his huge attributes is that he gets players thinking the same way, he gets the best out of players and support staff.
“He challenges them and he also knows how important the Lions are for the players in the four countries.”
The former Scotland head coach also dismissed concerns over a New Zealander taking charge of the tour, with McGeechan insisting Gatland has an understanding of what representing the Lions embodies.
“Gatland being a New Zealander makes no difference,” he said. “He’s coached Ireland, Wales and a club side in England. He’s been here for 15 years or more in this environment.
“He understands it and he is very respectful of it, and of the Lions.”
McGeechan added: “Strangely enough, I asked him if he’d speak to the players early enough in the 2009 tour.
“He said, ‘No, not yet, I haven’t earned that right’ – for someone to have that understanding of what is required and what it means, says a lot about him and how he sees things.”