Warren Gatland ticks ‘a lot of boxes’ for Lions job – Exeter’s Rob Baxter

Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter believes Warren Gatland is the right man to lead the British and Irish Lions

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland's Wales side won the 2012 Six Nations Photo: National Assembly for Wales, via Flickr

Warren Gatland

Rob Baxter has backed Warren Gatland’s appointment as British and Irish Lions head coach for the 2013 tour of Australia, insisting the New Zealander ticks “an awful lot of boxes”.

The Wales boss was named as the man to take charge of the Lions’ pursuit of a first series win since Sir Ian McGeechan’s side were victorious in South Africa in 1997.

Gatland led Wales to Grand Slam glory in the Six Nations in April, while the 48-year-old also enjoyed relative success during a three-year spell in charge of Ireland.

And Exeter Chiefs head coach Baxter considered Gatland to be the standout candidate for the post.

“You have to look at his record,” Baxter told The Sport Review. “He was successful during his time in Ireland, and he was very, very successful in his time at Wasps.

“To be fair, Wales have been the team which have experienced the most success in the British Isles in the last couple of seasons.

“If you talk about his record in terms of making things happen, he’s probably got the best qualifications of all the coaches in the country at the moment to make things happen and he’s got experience of English, Welsh and Irish rugby.

“He ticks an awful lot of boxes.”

Gatland’s appointment as the Lions boss has drawn criticism, with some rugby purists citing a preference for a British or Irish coach as opposed to the New Zealander.

But Baxter, while admitting that a coach from one of the home nations taking the reins would be ideal, believes Gatland is the best-placed man to take charge of the trip Down Under next year.

“Would I prefer it to be an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman or a Welshman? Yes, I probably would,” he added.

“But at the same time, I’m a big believer in picking the best man for the job. And if the best man for the job is currently Warren Gatland, then I think we should all be behind that.”

Aside from brief spells at New Zealand’s Thames Valley and Waikato, Gatland has spent the majority of his coaching career in the northern hemisphere.

He started at Galwegians in 1994 before taking charge of Connacht, which eventually led to his appointment as Ireland’s head coach.

Gatland spent three seasons at Wasps before taking up his current Wales position in 2007. And Baxter believes that if players, such as New Zealand-born Thomas Waldrom can represent England, then the same rules should apply to coaches.

“There are probably going to be people on the British and Irish Lions tour who aren’t as we would describe, British [or Irish],” Baxter said.

“You can play international rugby based on residency. None of us seem to have too many issues with those guys playing for our countries, once they’ve been a resident.

“Thomas Waldrom played for England in South Africa. It would seem a bit strange to sit here and go, ‘We’re quite happy for Waldrom to play for England but we don’t Warren Gatland to coach the Lions’ – so there are similarities with the playing group as well.”

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