Rugby: Gatland puts Chiefs and Lions before shot at All Blacks

WELLINGTON • Warren Gatland has said he did not throw his hat into the ring to replace All Blacks coach Steve Hansen as he wanted to honour his commitments to the Waikato Chiefs and British and Irish Lions.

Gatland, who stepped down as Wales coach after guiding them to the World Cup semi-finals, was on New Zealand Rugby’s list of 26 home-grown candidates but has decided to stick with his plan to take over the Chiefs next year.

As part of his four-year deal with the Super Rugby side, the New Zealander will also be able to take a year off to lead the British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa in 2021.

“It was nice to be contacted (but) I politely declined putting my name forward,” he told New Zealand’s Radio Sport Breakfast podcast.

“I’m a little bit old school… I’d made the commitment to the Chiefs and I’d made the commitment to the Lions, it was important that I carry on with that… honour the commitment I made to those two sides.”

He added that if the chance to coach the All Blacks arose again, he would consider it but if not, then he had no regrets.

“I’m a great believer in what will be, will be,” the 56-year-old said.

“If you are successful, other opportunities will come along.

“It was time for me to make a decision to leave Wales and the northern hemisphere and come back to New Zealand and I’m excited by that.

“Maybe sometime in the future I may get that opportunity (to coach the All Blacks) again.”

Gatland took over Wales in 2007 and guided them to four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams.

He also led the British and Irish Lions to a Test series victory over Australia in 2013 and a drawn series with New Zealand in 2017.

His last match for Wales was the 40-17 loss to the Hansen-coached All Blacks in the play-off for third at the World Cup last month.

New Zealand Rugby is expected to appoint the new coach before Christmas.

The leading contenders include Jamie Joseph, who guided World Cup hosts Japan to a historic quarter-final, Scott Robertson, Dave Rennie and Ian Foster.

New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey said last week that applicants will need to have their coaching support team ready when interviewed.

“This is high performance. You’ve got to get the best, the very, very best.

“Our standards are very high. We believe our team has to be the best it possibly can,” he said.

South Africa won their third World Cup after beating England 32-12.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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