Chiefs stand firm in Gatland row
REACTION: The Chiefs have rebuffed Steve Hansen’s critique of the Super Rugby contract that will allow new coach Warren Gatland to take a season off to coach the British and Irish Lions.
Departing All Blacks coach Hansen caused a stir at the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup last week when he questioned the nature of Gatland’s four-year deal with the Kiwi outfit.
Long-serving Wales mentor Gatland will coach the Chiefs from 2020 to 2023 but take 2021 off to lead the British and Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa that year.
Hansen, who is known to have an icy relationship with Gatland, wondered why the Chiefs would agree to a deal that could be disruptive.
“Having him back in New Zealand, not sure how that is going to work to be honest,” Hansen said.
“Because he is going to go and do the Lions after that.
“So there is not going to be a lot of continuity there for the Chiefs and him.
“But I am sure he will work his way through that.”
* Article continues below video …
Chiefs chief executive Michael Collins reiterated the stance adopted when Gatland was appointed in June, believing the 2021 “sabbatical” could be catered for without disruption.
“I’m really comfortable with where we’re at. We’ve got some great assistant coaches, we’ve got some good continuity going forward,” Collins said.
“People will have their own opinions on that, as Steve Hansen has, but I’ve got a good crew set up and I’m not as concerned.”
Collins said Gatland had his heart set on leading the Lions for a third tour but had otherwise been engaged with Chiefs management since his appointment.
An interim head coach for 2021 is yet to be finalised but Collins said planning was “well advanced” and whether it would be someone from the six-strong assistant coaching staff that was unveiled on Friday.
Five of them are familiar to Chiefs supporters, having served as assistants previously.
Neil Barnes (forwards), Tabai Matson (defence), Roger Randle (attack), Nick White (scrum) and Andrew Strawbridge (resource coach) will be joined by former Chiefs five-eighth David Hill.
The 56-year-old Gatland had been in Hamilton this week working with the Chiefs but was to return to the UK before taking charge fully from December 3.