Warren Gatland feels any other coach might not have drawn series against New Zealand

Warren Gatland believes his knowledge of New Zealand was key to the Lions' drawn Test series
Warren Gatland believes his knowledge of New Zealand was key to the Lions' drawn Test series

British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland believes he might be the only coach, who could have guided the team to a drawn result against All Blacks in the recently concluded New Zealand tour.

The 53-year-old faced a lot of heat from the local media in the country of his birth with New Zealand Herald even mocking him as a clown following the first Test that ended in 31-15 win for All Blacks.

However, Lions bounced back strong winning the second Test in Wellington by 21-24 and the final game at Eden Park finished with a 15-15 draw as the series was tied 1-1. This is Gatland's second successful stint with Lions as head coach following the 2-1 series victory in Australia.

"I thought it was a hiding to nothing," said Gatland of opting to lead the Lions for a second tour in succession.

"It is one of those positions that you are offered and it's very difficult to walk away from.

"Trying to win in New Zealand is the ultimate challenge.

"When I reflected on it I felt if I wasn't offered the position it would have been fine. Once I was offered the job you can't walk away from that sort of challenge, particularly someone like myself when you are competitive.

"I think if anyone else had been doing it, we might not have drawn the series."

Despite, the personal attack on him, Gatland believes the Lions were treated well in New Zealand and further insisted that he has a good relationship with All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen despite the war of words between the two during the course of the series.

"In the past people have come to New Zealand and haven't been quite prepared about culturally what you're facing," said Gatland.

"There are strengths in New Zealand as a nation, in terms of the isolation and being so far away, and galvanising themselves to have a go at anything. But there can be cracks at times as well.

"The All Blacks are hardly ever vulnerable but last week there were a few comments made that I hadn't expected.

"Someone mentioned the result and said that if they lost the sun would still come up tomorrow and it wouldn't be the end of the world, and they would learn from that experience. Those are comments that you don't hear very often coming out of the New Zealand camp.

"My wife asked me about three weeks into the tour, she said 'how are you enjoying the tour?' and I said 'I'm hating it'.

"You don't publicly show that something's affecting you. I don't mind people criticising me tactically or the way that we play but I thought some of the stuff was quite personal. And, as a Kiwi, I found that quite challenging to be perfectly honest.

"You've got to put that aside and move on. I'm not a person who trawls through every newspaper and media and stuff but you hear what's going on.

"You try really hard to make sure that doesn't affect you; you've got to make sure you're relaxed and calm. That's important the staff and players see you as the person in charge and in control of whatever's going on out there."

Speaking about Hansen, Gatland said: "We're both incredibly competitive coaches but at the end of the day I think we all came to the conclusion that it was a great series, particularly with the atmosphere at the games, and there was some tough rugby played."

Gatland also made it clear that now his focus will turn towards Wales with the all-important 2019 World Cup in Japan to come.

"I'm definitely, definitely finishing up after the World Cup with Wales, no matter what. They may get rid of me before the World Cup. I would have been there for long enough and so I don't know what I'm going to do post-2019, there's no plans at the moment.

"I'm not worried about the future, I'm not worried about what's going to happen. I know there will be something out there for me."