LONDON – Warren Gatland is backing Eddie Jones to succeed him as the next British and Irish Lions coach and expects he would bring back a clean sweep from their three-Test tour of South Africa in 2021.
“He’d do a great job as Lions coach; 3-0 would be expected. It’s probably the easiest of the three tours, isn’t it?” Gatland said at a news conference yesterday after naming his Wales side to face Jones’ England in the Six Nations Championship on Saturday.
Gatland coached the last two Lions tours, to Australia in 2013 and his native New Zealand last year, but says Australian Jones is the best man to handle the next one.
“I’m learning from him. He’s doing a great job so I’m watching him pretty closely,” Gatland added.
“I’m just intrigued by watching him, the way he coaches his team. You learn as much as you possibly can from everyone. That’s part of the game. The game changes and you try to learn as much as you can.”
The pair will meet having overseen a winning start to their respective campaigns with injury-hit Wales doing better than expected in brushing aside Scotland 34-7 in Cardiff, while England finished strongly to beat Italy 46-15 in Rome.
Gatland said the key to winning at Twickenham, where Wales last had success in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, is “confidence and self-belief”.
“It’s about being prepared to play at a high intensity. Play with composure and patience and that’s the key. Not being intimidated by the Twickenham factor at all. There are a lot of guys in this squad who will go there with a lot of confidence,” he said.
“Everyone talks about how much they dislike the English but I think the relationship between England and Wales has always been close.
“It’s the rugby that brings the two nations together. I think that’s what makes the relationship special. I think there’s been a lot of respect between the two nations over the years.”
Wales named an unchanged starting XV for Saturday’s game. Jones will announce his England team tomorrow but will be without Ben Youngs after the scrumhalf damaged his knee ligaments in the win over Italy.