Warren Gatland: Lions would be good for him says WRU chief executive

Warren Gatland
Wales won a Grand Slam in 2008, Warren Gatland's first season in charge of them
New Zealand v Wales (third Test)
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin Date: Saturday, 25 June 2016 Kick-off: 08:35 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, the BBC Sport app, Connected TV, and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.

Warren Gatland would benefit from taking a year off coaching Wales to lead the 2017 British and Irish Lions to New Zealand, says his boss.

Gatland, whose contract with Wales runs until 2019, guided the 2013 Lions to a 2-1 series win over Australia.

"If he does get it then I think it will be good for him," said Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips.

He also announced that the Wales A team, which last played in 2002, will be restarted in 2017.

Phillips said Gatland has been Wales boss "for quite a while".

He added: "I think it would be good for him to go away for a year, get a different perspective and have a degree of reflection and reinvention.

"I think we can turn it into a positive."

Liam Williams scored Wales' penultimate try against New Zealand in Wellington
Liam Williams scored Wales' penultimate try against New Zealand in Wellington

Wales are trailing New Zealand 2-0 in their current series under Gatland with the remaining Test to take place on Saturday, 25 June.

Wales, beaten 36-22 in Wellington, have adopted a more expansive approach as they try to evolve their game.

Wales have now lost 28 consecutive matches against the All Blacks, with their last win coming in 1953.

Former All Blacks scrum-half Justin Marshall has praised their style in the two defeats by the All Blacks as a "revelation".

But Gatland faced criticism over Wales' approach during the 2016 Six Nations.

Phillips added: "It is slightly ironic at the moment that when you read the press they are questioning whether Warren is the right guy for Wales, yet on the other side of the ledger some are suggesting he is a shoo-in for the Lions job.

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"What I've learned over the last few weeks is that in New Zealand they hold Warren in massive regard.

"Warren has to get it [the Lions role] on merit.

"He has got to get it because he believes he can do it and so do the people who select him. It isn't just an automatic selection."

Phillips also confirmed Wales are set to play international A team fixtures next season for the first time since 2002.

Wales' summer fixtures:
11 June: New Zealand 39-21 Wales (Auckland)
14 June: Chiefs 40-7 Wales (Hamilton)
18 June: New Zealand 36-22 Wales (Wellington)
25 June: New Zealand (Dunedin)

The likes of Shane Williams and Tom Shanklin featured in a team coached by Mike Ruddock when the A side last played.

Wales withdrew from the 2003 A team Six Nations due to what were understood to be primarily cost reasons, and have not been seen since.

"We will reconstitute the Wales A team for next season," he said.

"We believe getting these fixtures up and running can help both ourselves and the [Welsh] regions by exposing the next group of players to a different, higher level of competition."

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