Warren Gatland: WRU happy for Wales coach to lead Lions in 2017

By Nick WebbBBC Sport Wales
Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland has led the Wales national team since 2007

Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips says he would not stand in Wales coach Warren Gatland's way if the British and Irish Lions job is offered to him for the 2017 tour.

The Lions, who were victorious under Gatland in Australia in 2013, travel to world champions New Zealand next year.

Lions chief executive John Feehan has said Gatland is the leading contender to take charge again.

"If they want to select Warren, we'd feel good about that," Phillips said.

"It's because Wales are performing well and he's coaching well."

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Gatland's role with the Lions saw him miss the 2013 Six Nations but his assistant Rob Howley guided Wales to the title with a 30-3 victory over England in the final game.

His principal rival for the 2017 Lions job is widely seen as Ireland's Joe Schmidt, with Scotland's Vern Cotter yet to taste Six Nations success and England's Eddie Jones only just installed in his new national job.

"None of us would want to stand in the way of Warren getting that role," Phillips, who succeeded Roger Lewis as WRU chief, added.

"Although he's possibly one of the best coaches in the world, it would make him an even better coach because he would get a whole new set of experiences and we'd benefit from those in the years after he comes back.

"If he is asked, that's hopefully because we have performed well in the Six Nations."

The decision will be made after the summer tours by the four countries involved. The 2017 tour manager John Spencer indicated that two or three candidates are likely to be interviewed.