Wales boss closes in on Lions role

WALES coach Warren Gatland’s second Grand Slam looks set to clinch him the role of British and Irish Lions chief for next year’s tour of Australia.

The New Zealander is the overwhelming favourite for the job, with Ireland’s Declan Kidney and under-pressure Scotland coach Andy Robinson also thought to be on a three-man shortlist.

Saturday’s Six Nations-deciding 16-9 victory over France at the Millennium Stadium handed Wales and Gatland their second Grand Slam in just over four years. He won his first just months after taking charge in 2008.

It has also made former Wasps boss Gatland even more fancied to succeed Sir Ian McGeechan as head coach for the 2013 Lions tour, which will include three Tests against Australia and seven other tour matches, including a first ever in Hong Kong.

Gatland, 48, can already boast experience of coaching the Lions, as he and his long-standing Wasps and Wales assistant Shaun Edwards were part of McGeechan’s coaching team for the 2009 tour of South Africa, on which the Springboks won a three-match series 2-1.

If he is confirmed as Lions head coach next month another of Gatland’s assistants, Rob Howley, is being tipped to take charge of Wales for next year’s Six Nations defence, freeing the former All Black to focus on scouting for the summer trip. Edwards would be likely to be invited to rejoin Gatland in the Lions set-up.

Gatland’s appointment would pave the way for a Welsh-dominated squad, with talismanic flanker and captain Sam Warburton winning widespread backing to skipper the tourists Down Under.

TOUR DATES | LIONS 2013

Sat 1 June v Barbarians, Hong Kong
Wed 5 June, v Western Force, Perth
Sat 8 June, v Queensland Reds, Brisbane
Wed 12 June, v Invitational team, Newcastle
Sat 15 June, v Waratahs, Sydney
Tue 18 June, v Brumbies, Canberra
Sat 22 June, v AUSTRALIA, Brisbane
Tue 25 June, v Melbourne Rebels, Melbourne
Sat 29 June, v AUSTRALIA, Melbourne
Sat 6 July, v AUSTRALIA, Sydney