Warren Gatland the ideal man for Lions: Rory Best
Ireland skipper Rory Best has insisted that Warren Gatland is the right man for rugby’s toughest job after the worst kept secret in sport was confirmed.
The Wales head coach has long been known as the man chosen to lead the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand next summer with his official unveiling coming in Edinburgh yesterday lunchtime.
Having worked with the native Kiwi on the victorious tour to Australia in 2013, Best believes Gatland is up to the daunting task that lies ahead.
“I think that he was the obvious candidate,” said the Ulsterman.
“The media and press came out saying that he was the runaway leader for it and that’s because of his record.
“A first series win since 1997 the last time, that was a very big achievement.
“You also look at Wales and how consistently they’ve performed during his time in charge.”
Best added: “There was a reason he was the obvious candidate and that’s because he’s a very good coach.
“He knows New Zealand well, being from there, and that’s not just how the All Blacks are going to prepare for the Lions but how the provincial sides will prepare too. To get that insight could be the key to a successful tour.”
Best will have devoted plenty of time to the World champions’ recent performances given that Ireland meet Steve Hansen’s men twice in November and admits their form this summer, as well as a gruelling schedule, means next year’s tour is shaping up to be the most formidable of challenges.
“When you look at the schedule on the one hand, and the way the Rugby Championship has gone to date on the other, you can see it’s going to be really tough. They’ve raised the bar almost out of sight in terms of squad development. It’ll be a massive challenge.”
And what of his own prospects for a second tour of duty? Best was not selected in the original squad in 2013 but was drafted in after Dylan Hartley’s suspension and captained the midweek team against the Brumbies.
Three-and-a-half years on and Ireland’s most capped hooker shows no signs of letting up. Even at 34-years-old, if he continues on the same track he should find himself squarely in Gatland’s thoughts once again.
“I remember doing a speech at Belfast Harlequins just after I came back and saying I wouldn’t’ know where I’d be in four years time, or even if I’d still be about, but I feel as good as I felt four years ago,” he said.
“To be offered the two-year contract after the World Cup at least shows that the IRFU and Ulster branch still have faith that I’m doing something right.
“When you look back on your career, there are a few moments that stick out. There’s captaining Ulster and you don’t think you’ll ever top it. Then you’re asked to captain Ireland and then the Lions. Obviously the result didn’t go the way we wanted but you can’t win them all unfortunately. It was a huge honour.”