Matt Dawson backs Lions coach choice of Warren Gatland

Matt Dawson

Former British and Irish Lions scrum-half Matt Dawson has given his approval to the appointment of Warren Gatland as coach for the 2013 tour to Australia.

England World Cup-winner Dawson believes the Wales coach will promote the harmony within the squad that is so key to a successful Lions tour.

"I think it's the right appointment, the Lions committee have absolutely nailed it," Dawson said.

"Maybe for once in goodness knows how long there's very little controversy."

Dawson played on three Lions tours, the first the triumphant 1997 series win over South Africa under Sir Ian McGeechan and then the losing tours to Australia in 2001 and New Zealand in 2005.

Former Wales and New Zealand coach Graham Henry was in charge in 2001, while ex-England chief Sir Clive Woodward took charge in 2005 and Dawson says the lack of unity amongst the playing squad was a major flaw each time.

"In 2001... we were struggling because it wasn't a Lions tour," Dawson said. "Whether I was in the midweek or weekend team, you literally wouldn't see half the other touring party.

"I was in the lift in 2005 in New Zealand where a certain Welsh player of notoriety, I don't need to go into too much detail, was in the lift with me going down to breakfast asking me what the midweek score was from the night before!

"If that's the case you're thinking, 'well we're not quite as one as we think here'."

The reappointment of McGeechan for the 2009 tour to South Africa, although ending in a 2-1 Test defeat, saw the return of the feel-good factor to Lions touring, with Gatland and Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards instrumental as part of the Scotsman's backroom staff.

"I don't go along with the 'it's too Welsh a backroom staff': Shaun Edwards is English, he's a Wales coach but he's English, they've been a proven team together," Dawson added.

"That's where it was absolutely nailed in 2009. Gats was simply brilliant with Geech at setting his team.

"Whenever the players got out of bed, wherever they went, when they had breakfast, when they went to the gym, when they went to the physio, they were a team and that backroom staff was absolutely first class.

"Gats always came across to me as a guy who encouraged and motivated improvement of players and improvement of coaching.

"I think it will affect Wales but not necessarily in a bad way... he has already left a legacy of sorts with Wales; if he's part of a Lions winning side that's going to be a huge legacy.

"Part of that legacy will be leaving Wales in good order with players and good order with coaching."

The Lions will play three Tests against the Wallabies and seven tour matches, including a warm-up against the Barbarians in Hong Kong.

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