Gatland rules out England job, eyes Super Rugby role in New Zealand

Alun Wyn Jones and Warren Gatland led Wales to victory over Ireland in March 2019 to clinch the Grand Slam

Alun Wyn Jones and Warren Gatland led Wales to victory over Ireland in March 2019 to clinch the Grand Slam

During his time with Wales, he has also toured with the Lions on three occasions, first as an assistant coach in South Africa in 2009, and then as head coach to Australia and New Zealand in 2013 and 2017 respectively.

Jones is contracted until 2021 with the original plan that he would mentor his successor for two years but it seems increasingly likely that the Australian will depart after this year's World Cup.

Some might suggest any of Gatland's career projections should be taken with a large pinch of salt after he famously announced: "I'm done, let someone else have a go", after the last Lions tour, but he took time on Wednesday to "put that comment into perspective".

"I think my coaching path is going to take different directions".

Gatland, 55, will stand down as Wales coach after this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan having become the country's longest-serving coach and leading them to three Grand Slams. "I'm delighted to now have everything in place to begin full-time in August 2020 as that gives me the best possible chance to plan for South Africa, but for the time being my focus is entirely on the Rugby World Cup and delivering a successful campaign for Wales".

"I'll focus 100 per cent on the Lions for those 12 months and then hopefully have an opportunity to go back to New Zealand and pick up something and then take it from there".

"I can tell you definitively now I will not be coaching England".

After the New Zealand tour, Gatland said that the squeeze on preparation time was putting the whole Lions concept at risk but the 2021 tour looks set to be even tighter. "The number of people afterwards, Kiwis, who contacted me to say they were disappointed by that element. that was really heartening".

It is also likely to run from July into August - the latest in the year of any Lions tour - following changes to the worldwide calendar that take the European domestic seasons through to late June and give him only three weeks with the players before the first tour game.

"I love the Lions and think they are in an incredibly healthy state now", he said. "Everyone is fighting for their own corner and you are trying to keep all the stakeholders happy".

"The Southern Hemisphere definitely do want to support the Lions, they know that's very important".

And now he hopes he can receive as much help from the Northern Hemisphere as the south.

"As a player it made all the difference and now I can't wait to be part of the famous sea of red enjoying the tour of a lifetime". We may be playing away in the heartland of South Africa, but I am confident that yet again, our fantastic supporters will make the matches feel like home games to the team. This was a unanimous decision from the Lions board, and it was important that we moved swiftly and proactively to secure Warren's signature.