Coaching British and Irish Lions tours a career risk, says Warren Gatland

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More pressure on Lions coaches – Gatland

Warren Gatland says he put his coaching reputation at stake when agreeing to lead the British and Irish Lions.

The Wales coach, 54, took charge of the Lions for a second time last summer.

Despite leading them to a drawn series in his native New Zealand, Gatland said he was “done” with the Lions after the criticism he received from the tour.

“You can fail as a Lions player and it may not affect your career. Have a poor coaching display and that has a massive impact,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Gatland, who had coached the Lions to a series win in Australia in 2013, was mocked up as a clown by the New Zealand Herald before the second Test this summer, which the Lions won to level the series.

After the tour had ended, Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien questioned the coaching of Gatland and some of his backroom staff.

The New Zealander emerged with his reputation enhanced, despite the criticism from some quarters, and although he has vowed not to take charge of the Lions again, he admitted that offering himself as a target is part of being a coach.

“Can you take pressure off your players by putting pressure on yourself and taking the heat on yourself?” he said. “No-one talks about the team or the players in that week.

“You’ve got to mix and match and do a few of those things, and that’s part of that role.

“You role is doing whatever you think is best for your team, whatever psychological advantage you might be able to get.”

After being appointed Wales coach in 2007, Gatland won Six Nations Grand Slams in 2008 and again in 2012.

He has said he will see out his current Welsh Rugby Union contract to the end of the 2019 World Cup in Japan, and has bullishly said he intends to sign off with Wales lifting the Webb Ellis Cup.

Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien (R) was critical of coach Warren Gatland after the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand

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