Discipline crucial to Gatland

  • Last Updated: September 4 2012, 17:56 BST

Warren Gatland is determined there will be no repeat of England's World Cup disciplinary issues when he leads the British and Irish Lions on next year's tour of Australia.

Discipline crucial to Gatland

Gatland's players will be encouraged to extend the 125-year traditions of the Lions, to be open and accessible to the public, to visit schools and hospitals. To leave a positive mark on the country.

In 2009, the players did all those things and the tour of South Africa, led by Sir Ian McGeechan, was praised for restoring the very ethos of the Lions despite a 2-1 Test series defeat.

But England's World Cup campaign, book-ended by a drunken squad night out in Queenstown and Manu Tuilagi's alcohol-fuelled leap from a ferry, has left its scar on the professional game.

That scar serves as a warning to Lions tour manager Andy Irvine, who expects the touring players to be targeted by members of the public when they are in Australia.

Inevitably, that leaves the Lions having to tread a fine line between upholding the best of their traditions while also being on their guard.

"Discipline and character are massively important things," Gatland said.

"We are all aware what happened in the World Cup and the issues that arose from that.

"Our conduct on and particularly off the field will be paramount.

"It is important we address that and make sure we try not to get ourselves into any trouble off the field."

While England sloped home in disgrace from the 2011 World Cup, Gatland's Wales squad reached the semi-finals and were praised for their conduct and professionalism.

Irvine believes Gatland, who enjoyed mixing with Lions supporters in the hotel bars on the 2009 tour, is the perfect man to strike the right balance.

"In the good old amateur days, some of the antics players got up to were probably worse than what happens now," Irvine admitted.

"But it is a different ball game now. These players are professionals, they have their reputations at stake, the reputations of their clubs, their countries and the Lions.

"They have a huge responsibility. We also know that some of them will be targeted. It is something we are very conscious of.

"It is something Warren is to be congratulated on. Wales have had one or two interesting moments in years gone by but they have had an exemplary record in the last two years.

"Warren is a well-balanced man. He understands what teamship and camaraderie is all about."

Gatland was selected as head coach by the Lions committee after leading Wales to the semi-finals of the World Cup and a 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam.

The official appointment was delayed after Gatland broke both heels falling from a ladder at his Waikato home, as the Lions had to be certain he would be fit to lead the tour.

Gatland will coach Wales in their autumn internationals against Australia and New Zealand but otherwise he has been seconded to the Lions full-time. Rob Howley takes over the reins with Wales.

"This is the highest honour, to be selected as the Lions coach," said Gatland, who was forwards coach in South Africa three years ago.

"It's a massive responsibility to the players and coaches that have gone before me and to 125 years of Lions history."

Gatland wants to appoint his coaching team before the autumn internationals. He is looking for continuity from 2009, which points to the likes of Graham Rowntree and Shaun Edwards, but he also plans to introduce some fresh faces.

Sam Warburton, Chris Robshaw, Paul O'Connell and Brian O'Driscoll all feature in Gatland's early captaincy short-list, although he stressed much can change over the next 10 months.

The squad will be no bigger than 35 players and Gatland is excited by the depth of talent at his disposal as the Lions aim for their first Test series win since 1997.

"Wales pushed Australia really close in the summer," Gatland said.

"If you're able to pick the best of the best from the other countries, then how much stronger potentially is a Lions squad going to be?

"That's why I'm really excited."

There are logistical and selection hurdles Gatland has to overcome. The Lions leave for Hong Kong together on May 27, just two days after the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro12 finals.

Gatland will bring those players not in finals action into camp early to begin preparations but he is resigned to being without half his squad until 24 hours before departure.

The Lions have the additional problem of some leading players - Mike Phillips, Gethin Jenkins and James Hook, for example - being based in France.

The Top 14 final is not until June 1, the same day the Lions play the Barbarians, and Gatland will not countenance late arrivals on tour.

His first mission will be to fly to France tomorrow and hold talks with potential tourists and their clubs over release for the Lions.

"You don't want to cut your nose off to spite your face in terms of making those players unavailable if they are really, really important to you," Gatland said.

"But if it means making a really, really tough call to say someone is not available then we might have to make that call.

"It might be the best thing for the squad. We're not going to make a hard-and-fast rule, but we are capable of making tough decisions if that's what is right for the squad."

Warren Gatland factfile

1963: Born September 17 in Waikato, New Zealand

1986: Made his debut for Waikato in the New Zealand provincial championship as a hooker, having switched from a number eight at the age of 21.

1988: Helped Waikato beat the touring Wales team and won his first All Blacks call-up, for the tour to Australia in 1988 and became a regular in the squad.

1994: Retired from playing having made a record number of appearances for Waikato (140) and 17 for the All Blacks, although he never won a Test cap, with his path blocked by Shaun Fitzpatrick.

1996: Coached Connacht for two seasons.

1998: Appointed Ireland head coach.

2001: Appointed Wasps director of rugby and kept the club in the Premiership.

2003: Wasps won Premiership title and Parker Pen European Shield.

2004: Wasps won Premiership title and the Heineken Cup.

2005: Wasps won Premiership title.

2006: Coached Waikato to the New Zealand provincial championship.

2007: Appointed Wales head coach, replacing Gareth Jenkins after Wales had crashed out in the pool stages of the World Cup.

2008: Coached Wales to the Six Nations, including their first win against England at Twickenham for 20 years.

2009: Appointed British and Irish Lions forwards coach for the tour of South Africa. The Lions were beaten 2-1.

2010: Signed a new four-year contract with the Welsh Rugby Union that included a sabbatical to cover the summer of 2013.

2011: Coached Wales to the semi-finals of the World Cup, their best performance since the inaugural tournament in 1987.

2012: Wales won their second Grand Slam in Gatland's tenure.

September 4 - Confirmed as British and Irish Lions head coach for 2013 tour of Australia.