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Published: 10:06 | 14/1/16

WRU will give Gatland Lions blessing

Warren Gatland will have the full support of the Welsh Rugby Union if he is chosen to lead the British and Irish Lions in 2017.

Gatland guided the Lions to their first series win in 16 years against Australia in 2013 and is the leading candidate for next year's tour of New Zealand.

The Kiwi native was forced to take a sabbatical from his position as Wales head coach ahead of the 2013 tour, but WRU will not stand in his way if he were to be offered the chance to lead the tourists for a second time.

"If Warren gets the opportunity to be the Lions coach again then he would definitely go with our blessing," WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips said.

"I would want him to go because it would be saying Wales are playing well because people therefore want the best coach in the UK to lead the Lions.

"On a personal level it is the ultimate job because everything is stacked against you."

Assistant coach Rob Howley took charge of Wales in Gatland's absence, guiding them to the Six Nations title, and Phillips has backed the coaching staff to step up once again.

"It would also be good for the rest of the coaching team to make it work while he isn’t around," Phillips stated.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is widely considered to be Gatland's main rival for the position with a decision set to be made after the summer tours.

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