British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland revealed that he has been in discussion with former England coach Stuart Lancaster for the upcoming tour of South Africa next year.
Gatland, who started his association with Lions as an assistant coach during 2009 tour of South Africa was in charge of the side during the 2013 and 2017 tours of Australia (won) and New Zealand (draw) respectively.
With the Lions and South Africa Rugby confirming that the series will take place in its original schedule of July and August next year, Gatland has been finalising his backroom staff with Lancaster also in contention.
The 50-year-old is currently associated with Leinster but has worked as Elite Director of England between 2008 and 2010 before taking the role of head coach of the red rose team between 2011 and 2015 before was replaced by Eddie Jones post the home World Cup.
“I have a huge amount of respect for him," said Gatland on Lancaster in Sky Sports Podcast.
“We met before the last tour and he spoke to me about his opinions on the Leinster players and the Irish players and gave me an insight into them and I appreciated that. So, look he’s definitely one person that I’ve spoken to.
“I’ve had a couple of conversations with him, but there’s a number of other people that I’ll be looking at and to talk to and the first step is to get clarity from unions and the bosses and then potentially club CEOs about who is available, who isn’t available.”
Saracens players including the likes of Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje will be playing in the second tier Championship competition next season following the club's automatic relegation for series of salary cap breaches but Gatland feels that wouldn't be a factor when he selects the squad for the tour of South Africa.
“We understand that maybe playing in the Championship is not going to be quite the same level, but hopefully those players are going to get a significant amount of international rugby between now and the tour, and if you look at them, a lot of them are pretty experienced and pretty seasoned campaigners as well.
“Maybe the positive thing about the Saracens players is they’re going to play some Test matches, they’re going to be playing some Championship matches, but they’re going to come on tour really refreshed and excited and probably maybe in better shape than a lot of other players because they haven’t had quite the same level of intensity. But I’m just speculating about that at the moment. It’s just a matter of wait and see.
“I don’t really have any concerns and worries about what state they’re going to be in, because I think they’re going to get enough top-level rugby before the tour.”