Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Wales boss spells out warning: hands off Gatland

Wales rugby boss Roger Lewis has warned off possible suitors of coach Warren Gatland following a stunning World Cup run that threatens to make the New Zealander a man in demand.

Gatland is repeatedly linked with the All Blacks top job that will be vacated by Graham Henry after the tournament.

Wales are currently one win away from reaching their first World Cup final, with Gatland already tied in to a new four-year deal that will incorporate the 2015 competition hosted by England.

It is a contract that Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Lewis describes as “watertight.”

“Having worked in the music business for so long, when stars break and you sell millions of records and generate hundreds of millions of pounds, you have got to make sure you have got a contract there that is watertight,” he said.

“And we have got a watertight contract.

“Even if anyone wanted to come and have a conversation with us, and I am not suggesting this at all, it would cost them a heck of a lot of money.”

It was four years ago this week that Lewis first met Gatland, their initial talks coming soon after Wales crashed out of the World Cup against Fiji, a defeat that resulted in Gatland's predecessor Gareth Jenkins losing his job.

Gatland had already won Premiership titles and Heineken Cups with Wasps, and Lewis felt he was the perfect fit to mastermind a Welsh revival from the depths of a humiliating World Cup exit.

Gatland won a Six Nations title and Grand Slam during his first season at the helm, and now a World Cup final place will be secured if Wales can see off France at Eden Park this weekend.

“Everyone involved in Welsh rugby, from the grass-roots to the elite end, should feel so proud of what these boys have achieved. It is absolutely extraordinary,” said Lewis, of Wales' World Cup campaign.

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