British and Irish Lions tour manager John Spencer has hailed Warren Gatland as “the best head coach in the world” following their epic drawn series in New Zealand.
But Spencer fears Gatland’s heroics, sealed by Saturday’s 15-15 draw in the third Test, will make it hard for the Lions to retain him for their next tour in 2021, when they will visit South Africa.
“You have to be a very shrewd coach to come to New Zealand and achieve what the players achieved,” said Spencer. “I will tell you without doubt I think Warren Gatland is the best head coach in the world.”
New Zealander Gatland, 53, has been touted as a possible successor to All Blacks boss Steve Hansen, and Spencer believes the erstwhile Wales coach will have his pick of jobs.
“I think Warren will be in very big demand all over the world. And that’s his decision,” Spencer added.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Wales, because Warren’s got a job to do there, but I think his achievements on this tour have opened up the future for him.”
Gatland, who led the Lions to victory in Australia four years ago, has refused to rule out a third expedition at the helm.
Future tours could take place without English players, however, with Spencer saying he can envisage the Lions boycotting Premiership talent unless they are consulted on plans to shake up the calendar.
“Yes I can,” he said. “I would dread the day when it became divisive like that. All it needs is a few sensible heads to sit around a table and talk about it and I am sure there are people in the Premiership who understand the Lions and who want it to succeed, just as they want their own countries to succeed. But we have to sit down and talk about it pretty quickly.”