Warren Gatland dismisses fitness fears for 2013 Lions tour

Warren Gatland with the 2012 Six Nations and Triple Crown trophies

Wales coach Warren Gatland has dismissed fears that he will be unfit to take charge of the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013.

Some reports have suggested that Lions' bosses fear Gatland's recent heel injuries would rule him out.

But Gatland told Scrum V: "I can assure you I'm going to be right in a few weeks and be up and running around."

A deal between the Lions management and the Welsh Rugby Union to allow Gatland a sabbatical has yet to be sealed.

Gatland and the Lions bosses met in March, in the wake of Wales' Grand Slam, to discuss the task of taking on the Wallabies.

He then flew to New Zealand for a holiday only to suffer a double heel fracture in a fall while cleaning windows.

That left doubts in the minds of some that he would be fit and able to take on such a demanding role as the Lions tour presents.

But he avoided the need for surgery and says that the Lions management and Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis negotiating a release period is the most important item on the agenda.

"I've spoken to them [the Lions] obviously, and that's been well-documented," said Gatland.

"And I think they're just waiting to have assurance that the injury is going to heal, [that] it's not going to be a hindrance in 12 months.

"I can assure you I'm going to be right in a few weeks and be up and running around.

"And I think perhaps the next process is the Lions agreeing with Wales and Roger Lewis in terms of the release period and what the compensation is.

"When that's done [the next task] is then perhaps sitting down with myself and hopefully being able to agree terms as well in terms of time-frame and whatever else.

"So I'd like to think we're reasonably close, but until all those things are done nothing's final until, I suppose, the dotted lines have been signed."

The WRU have already paved the way for his Lions appointment by granting permission for him to miss the 2013 Six Nations.

And the Lions management have been hopeful that the 2013 coach would be free to prepare for the tour from the summer of 2012.

During that time, Wales - under caretaker coach Rob Howley in Gatland's enforced absence - also face Australia in a three-Test tour.

However, Gatland confirmed he expects to join the tour party for the second and third Tests, in Melbourne and Sydney.

"At this stage I'll probably struggle to be in Brisbane for the first Test," said the New Zealander.

"If I can be in Melbourne and Sydney for the second and third Tests, that'll be great.

"As much as anything, [to] just to go and have a little bit of an input, really, to support the coaches and players as much as anything."

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