OPINION: Warren Gatland is the best coach in the world right now and New Zealand rugby needs to start thinking about ways to get him back into their system.
I've always held Gatland in the highest regard and his deeds with the British & Irish Lions in Australia over the past month or so have only heightened my appreciation of his methods.
I was getting towards the end of my career when Gatland shifted to the English club scene on the back of his promising coaching stint with the Irish national side.
He worked wonders with Wasps, making them a European powerhouse. He slipped home briefly to claim an NPC title with Waikato before moving to Wales.
He's been a success in giving the Red Dragons some backbone - two Six Nations Grand Slams are proof of that - and now his ability to see the much-hyped Lions come away with a rare series victory will certainly see his stocks rise.
I'd argue that Gatland is superior to Sir Graham Henry at the same stage of his coaching career up north. He's had more success with Wales than Henry managed and he's beaten the Wallabies with the Lions, an assignment that Henry found a test too far back in 2001.
Yet Henry was able to come back to New Zealand, stamp his claims with a third Super Rugby title with the Blues, pick up the All Blacks job and eventually find World Cup glory.
Super Rugby, the All Blacks and the World Cup are the only things missing on Gatland's impressive coaching CV.
His Wales contract goes through to the next World Cup and it would seem that the 2017 Lions job for their next tour to New Zealand is his for the taking.
But Gatland is a proud Kiwi. He certainly hasn't lost his accent through his time up north, nor has he lost his love for this part of the world - he spends plenty of time in Hamilton and Waihi Beach where he still has properties.
I'd suggest he would love to coach the All Blacks and it wouldn't take too much to get him back here.
There's a bit of water to run under the bridge and the next World Cup, as usual, will be a crucial crossroads in the coaching game.
But I can't help think that Gatland is the man to take over from Steve Hansen.
And maybe New Zealand should be proactive in this. Some Super Rugby coaching jobs will open up in the next year or so. Why not get Gatland involved there.
It wasn't just the manner of the Lions ways on the field where they showed plenty of adventure, I think a lot of the success on this tour was the way that the squad operated off the field.
They were a solid and harmonious outfit and that has often been their undoing - it was certainly a crucial ingredient that Henry couldn't instil with the well-documented bickering in the 2001 squad handicapping their test team's performances.
That's been a factor in the change of direction with the Wallabies where Robbie Deans lost the job in the wake of the series loss to the Lions. Australians seemed uncomfortable with Deans' appointment from the outset and Deans' Canterbury faithful never really seemed at ease with their man getting that job.
In the end, Deans and the Wallabies seemed to struggle too - a series of off-field incidents with some of his high-profile younger players adding to the inconsistent performances that plagued his record on the field.
It was a no-brainer to get Ewen McKenzie involved.
His man-management skills are under-rated and, again, the harmony he brought to the Reds was crucial to their success. It will be a key ingredient to taking the Wallabies to the next level.
I don't go along with claims of a lack of depth in the Australian game. They have a lot of good players and I'd expect McKenzie to get the best out of them.
As a Wallabies prop and an assistant to Wallabies coach Rod Macqueen, McKenzie shaped a remarkable record against the All Blacks, winning 11 of his 22 encounters. He's proved with the Reds that he knows how to consistently beat New Zealand teams.
I'm not sure his transformation of the Wallabies will happen overnight, but the All Blacks will need to be wary of him.
Taine Randell is a former All Blacks captain
- Sunday News
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