Rugby World

WARREN GATLAND

WARREN GATLAND was 34 years old when he first coached against the Springboks, an experience that taught him much and still tickles him plenty, despite the severity of what happened to him back in 1998 when he was in charge of a lowly Ireland against the steepling world champions.

The Kiwi was three Tests and three losses into his reign in Dublin at the time. In South Africa – where he returns next year as British & Irish Lions coach – Ireland had already lost tour games to South Western Districts Eagles, Western Province and Griquas (who beat the tourists 52-13) before the Test series. Two more losses later and Gatland was zero from five Internationals. A year later Ireland exited the World Cup at their earliest stage ever. Two years after that, he was sacked.

From there to here. Rugby World readers have named Gatland, now in charge of the Chiefs, the greatest rugby coach ever, an accolade that he’s grateful for while also saying that the same thing could be done next month with a different answer. “I might not even make the quarter-final,” he says.

Given that the Lions are heading there in

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