Brian O’Driscoll has backed Wales head coach Warren Gatland to lead the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand next year
He believes it’s between Gatland and Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt
The centre was controversially dropped by Gatland for the final test in 2013
Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll has backed Warren Gatland as probably be the best person to coach the British and Irish Lions on their tour of New Zealand next year.
The Kiwi controversially dropped the Ireland centre for the final test when he led the Lions to a series victory over Australia in 2013, preferring instead to use an all-Welsh combination of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in the centres. The decision though proved correct as the Lions hammered Australia 41-16 to clinch the series 2-1.
But it appears O’Driscoll holds no hard feelings towards the current Wales boss, backing Gatland to pip fellow Kiwi, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, for the coveted role.
“You have to think it’s between Gats (Gatland) and Joe Schmidt,” O’Driscoll told The Telegraph newspaper in Britain.
“I think having been under Gats in 2013 — and he was a coach in 2009 as well — his style is probably something that lends itself to the short lead-in time.”
Gatland, who was forwards coach under Ian McGeechan on the Lions tour of South Africa in 2009, has said he would relish the opportunity to lead the Lions on their tour of his homeland.
England’s Grand Slam-winning coach Eddie Jones has already ruled himself out of contention, meaning it will come down to Gatland, Ireland coach Schmidt and Scotland’s Vern Cotter. All three are New Zealanders.
The Lions will play 10 matches on their tour next year, playing all five Super Rugby franchises, the Maori All Blacks, a provincial union selection and three tests against Steve Hansen’s All Blacks.
The Lions coach is expected to be named after the northern hemisphere sides’ tours in June, with Wales touring New Zealand, Ireland heading to South Africa and England playing in Australia. Scotland will face Japan.
The Lions have won just one of 11 series in New Zealand, with the 1971 side coached by Carwyn James and led by centre John Dawes clinching the four-match series 2-1, with the fourth test at Eden Park a 14-14 draw.
O’Driscoll also gave his thoughts on this weekend’s European Champions Cup quarterfinals, which includes Dan Carter’s Racing 92 up against Ma’a Nonu’s Toulon.
He said Carter was still every bit as good as he was while pulling the strings for the All Blacks and tipped Racing to come out on top.
“It’s the same old Dan Carter,” O’Driscoll told the English daily. “Everyone always talks a bit about him having had an ‘armchair ride in an All Black jersey’. And he did get good service. But he is not working any quicker in a Racing jersey.
“It is still that kind of semi-laboured technique in passing and having a quick look and seeing if there’s a break, and there’s not, and just nudging the corner. But he still has the time.”