Lions tour: Warren Gatland to miss out on replacing Steve Hansen as All Blacks coach
Warren Gatland is almost certain to be overlooked as a successor to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen - even if he secures his place in British and Irish Lions folklore by masterminding a historic test series victory over New Zealand.
Speculation has been mounting that Gatland will emerge as one of the leading candidates to replace Hansen if, as expected, the All Blacks head coach steps down at the end of his contract after the World Cup in 2019.
However, New Zealand Rugby Union policy states a preference for coaches to be based in the country to be considered, and Ian Foster, the All Blacks assistant coach, was last night described as the "obvious, logical choice" to succeed Hansen by Steve Tew, the governing body's chief executive.
The Welsh Rugby Union indicated this week that while it expected Gatland to see out his contract, which also expires in 2019, it would be prepared to release him early if he wanted to return to New Zealand and it seems that will be the only way for the 53-year old to press his claims if he wants the job in two years' time.
"The policy is designed to ensure that whoever the head coach is, he or she has a very current and deep understanding of the All Blacks and the landscape in New Zealand rugby," Tew told the Telegraph.
"We are not locked into saying you have to be a New Zealander to be involved, but we are fortunate that we have a system here that produces a lot of good coaches, and we hope the next All Blacks coach comes out of that system.
"We have got Ian Foster sitting in this environment - an obvious logical choice. I am not saying it is pre-ordained or he has a head start, but he has a very strong track record and is a very strong partner with Steve in this environment, with a win ratio of 90-odd per cent."
Lions assistant coach Rob Howley, meanwhile, has criticised the New Zealand media's treatment of Gatland during the six-week tour. One New Zealand newspaper mocked up Gatland as a clown before the second test and the Lions head coach afterwards claimed he had been subjected to a personal campaign against him.
"It's been an absolute disgrace," Howley said. "You can be critical of technical or tactical elements, but when that becomes personal criticism I think we all step over the mark, and that's happened."
- The Telegraph