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Gatland closes in on Lions job

By James Corrigan

Warren Gatland does not yet have the Triple Crown, the Six Nations title or the Grand Slam. But just two games into this championship and it already appears he has sewn up the Lions head-coaching job.

Certainly the Welsh Rugby Union believe he has done enough to see off the challenge of the Ireland and Scotland coaches, Declan Kidney and Andy Robinson respectively.

The WRU were recently approached by the Lions committee to see for how long they would be prepared to release the Kiwi for the 2013 tour to Australia and, at a board meeting last week, a six-month absence was approved.

Lions manager Andy Irvine had previously declared that the head coach would have to be full-time and "be available effectively a year out".

There is a five-month break clause in Gatland's contract but, in the spirit of compromise, the WRU have offered the Lions another month.

This means Gatland will be in charge of Wales for next year's autumn Test matches before handing over the reins to Rob Howley, the current skills coach, for the 2013 Six Nations.

The decision will be officially made after the Six Nations but, in reality, the choice is already made.

It is a role for which Gatland has hankered since he was Ian McGeechan's assistant on the 2009 tour to South Africa.

He left the WRU in no doubt about his enthusiasm and, with Wales riding high, he is in a strong position to get his way.

Belfast Telegraph

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