2017 Lions: Warren Gatland says Lions role 'difficult to turn down'

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland's Wales reached the quarter-final of the 2015 World Cup

Wales coach Warren Gatland has said the chance to coach the British and Irish Lions on their 2017 Tour to New Zealand would be "difficult to turn down".

The double Grand Slam winning coach led the Lions to their first series win for 16 years in Australia in 2013.

Lions chief executive John Feehan confirmed the 52-year-old was the "leading contender" for the three-Test Tour to Gatland's native New Zealand.

Gatland said: "If I was offered the job it would be difficult to turn down."

Joe Schmidt, who led Ireland to Six Nations titles in 2014 and 2015, is the most likely challenger to fellow Kiwi Gatland as coach for the 2017 tour.

But the Ireland boss insists he is not considering the Lions job because his contract does not allow it, describing it as a "moot point".

The Lions, who have won just one series against the All Blacks in eight tours, will play three Tests against the world champions as well as facing all five of New Zealand's Super Rugby franchises.

Asked about a possible Lions duel with his compatriot Schmidt, Gatland joked: "He can have the job if he wants!

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"It's the hardest place in the world to go and play, not just from a rugby perspective but from a travel and organisation perspective. Looking at that schedule of New Zealand, if I wasn't involved it wouldn't bother me.

"It is such a tough schedule for five or six weeks - five Super Rugby sides, the New Zealand Maoris, three Tests and other games.

"There's probably a part of me that says please don't pick me to be the Lions coach. I'd rather go and enjoy it as a spectator."

Only Ian McGeechan has coached more than one post-war Lions tour and Gatland, who led Wasps to Heineken Cup success in 2004, was his assistant on their 2-1 series defeat in South Africa in 2009.