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Warren Gatland not ruling out leading British and Irish Lions again for 2025 Australia tour

·3-min read
Warren Gatland is only the second coach to ever lead three Lions tours (Getty Images)
Warren Gatland is only the second coach to ever lead three Lions tours (Getty Images)

Warren Gatland is not ruling out potentially leading the British and Irish Lions’ next tour following Saturday’s agonising defeat by world champions South Africa.

The Lions remain without a series win over the Springboks since 1997 after 37-year-old fly-half Morne Steyn - in scenes eerily reminiscent of the 2009 Lions tour - kicked a last-gasp winning penalty on his first cap for five years in the crucial winner-takes-all Third Test in Cape Town to seal a 19-16 victory and 2-1 triumph overall.

It was Gatland’s first series defeat as Lions coach, with the New Zealander having led the touring team to victory in Australia in 2013 and to a hard-fought series draw against the All Blacks four years later.

Ex-Wales boss Gatland - who was also an assistant to Sir Ian McGeechan during the 2009 trip to South Africa - is the only the second coach ever after McGeechan to lead the Lions on three separate tours and he was non-committal when asked about the potential to return for the next trip to Australia in 2025.

“In terms of my involvement, there’s a lot of water under the bridge in four years,” Gatland said.

“A lot of things can happen in that time. I’ve loved my time with the Lions.”

Saturday’s decisive loss saw the Lions - with Scotland maverick Finn Russell an early replacement for injured fly-half Dan Biggar - produce a much-improved attacking display in the first half and notch a try through Wales hooker Ken Owens to lead 10-6 at the interval.

However, Cheslin Kolbe went over for the Springboks in the second half before a goal-kicking duel that saw Steyn have the final say.

And while Gatland was frustrated by the loss, he says he is proud of the squad that have battled so hard during a most unusual and controversial tour.

"I'm disappointed obviously but I'm really proud of the effort the boys put in,” he said.

"We went out there to be positive and play some rugby. We missed one or two chances and they got a lucky bounce to score a try against the run of play. A couple of 50/50 calls probably didn't go our way.

"When you're playing against the world champions, you know it's going to be a really tight contest with the bounce of a ball or a call deciding it.

"The boys gave it 100 per cent and from a coaching point of view, you can't ask for more than that.

"The players have given everything but they will probably look back individually and go, 'there was an error there' or feel that they've given a penalty away.

"It was a proper Test match, it was tough and physical and that's what you want with a Lions series.

"It was never going to be easy travelling away from home to play the world champions and they were really tight contests. We're disappointed but it could have gone any way. Congratulations to South Africa."

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