NZ at forefront of Gatland's mind despite vitriol

WELLINGTON • Warren Gatland said yesterday he still hopes to coach in New Zealand, potentially with the world champions, the All Blacks, despite the hostile reception he received during this year's British and Irish Lions Tour.

The 54-year-old New Zealander this week ruled out coaching the Lions again, citing personal attacks against him in the media while touring his homeland.

But Gatland - whose side drew 1-1 with the All Blacks in the three-Test series - said the vitriol was confined to the press and that ordinary New Zealanders had warmly embraced the tourists.

"I've got to say the hospitality we had in New Zealand was unbelievable," he told Auckland-based Radio Sport in a telephone interview.

"The amount of people who spoke to me and contacted me to say that they were disappointed by some of the stuff that was written puts things into perspective."

One newspaper published a caricature of Gatland as a red-nosed clown during the Tour and he said the media also targeted his rugby player son Bryn when he was named in a team that faced the Lions.

While labelling elements of his treatment as "disgusting", Gatland said he still harboured ambitions to coach in New Zealand once his contract with Wales expires after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

"The plan is to finish in 2019, have a six-month break - coming back home, going to the beach and putting my feet up for a while," he said."Then (I'll) see if there are any opportunities after that, perhaps in Super Rugby.

"The thing about New Zealand is you have to be in the right place at the right time because there's not a lot of coaching positions."

Gatland has spoken previously about coaching the All Blacks and said he remained hopeful it would happen, although it was not a dream he was actively pursuing.

"If you come back to New Zealand, and if there's an opportunity to get involved in Super Rugby and you're successful, other things open up for you," he added.

"That's the way I look at it. I promise you there's not a strategy in place of me coming back to New Zealand and wanting to coach the All Blacks."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'NZ at forefront of Gatland's mind despite vitriol'. Print Edition | Subscribe