Warren Gatland seeks to avenge 2009 Lions heartache in South Africa

The newly appointed British and Irish Lions
head coach Warren Gatland has admitted the possibility of avenging the heartache of the 2009 South Africa
Lions tour was too big an opportunity to turn down, despite a negative backlash after the New Zealand
This will be the 55-year-old's fourth tour and third as head coach, with only Sir Ian McGeechan leading more Lion's campaigns. He will take up his role on August 1 2020 and it will conclude at the end of the tour. 
Gatland would become the first unbeaten Lions coach against the Southern Hemisphere if he were to be successful against the Springboks
The Kiwi had struggled with negative media attention during the 2017 Lions, which had forced him to question taking part in any future tours, but the Wales head coach - who was part of the 2009 coaching staff who lost 2-1 in South Africa - felt he could not turn down the chance of making history.
'The challenge for me as a head coach is to go undefeated in a test series,' said Gatland. 'If I was able to achieve that, and the squad were able to achieve that, that would be something pretty special. I have been extremely privileged to be involved and this will be my fourth tour. I am so thankful to be given the opportunity.
'I love the Lions as a concept, there were parts of the New Zealand tour that were incredibly challenging, it's probably the hardest thing you'll do as a coach, in terms of planning and preparation,' said Gatland.
'But the opportunity to go to South Africa where there is unfinished business, having been involved as head coach in the previous two tours - I couldn't turn my back then on this challenge of going and leading the Lions.' 
Gatland will be without his previous captain Sam Warburton - retiring in July 2018 - who was at the helm for both Australia and New Zealand, but has pinpointed some frontrunners for the high-pressured role.
'First of all, it has got to be somebody who has got the respect potentially of everyone in the squad,' said Gatland.
'Ideally you want someone to have been coming from a team that has been performing well and been successful. Alun Wyn Jones probably comes to mind at the moment in terms of what he has achieved in the game. Owen Farrell has definitely been incredibly successful as well.
'Potentially those two players are players that you would talk about if you were picking a team right now. But two years away is a long time and you never know what is going to happen in the game in terms of who comes to the forefront.' 
In the run up to the 2017 Lions tour much was said about the lack of preparation available to the players due to conflicting domestic schedules, but Gatland has confirmed it is high on his priority list that the team has enough time to prepare from a playing point of view, but also the demands of the South African climate.
'There are negotiations underway with the Pro14 and PRL in terms of potentially when their finals are locked in and how much time we are going to have together as a group before we go on tour,' he added.
'We need to look at the games in South Africa, the games at sea level and potentially at altitude, and how we plan around that.
'One of the things that we have done in the last previous Tours is we have said to all the players in the squad we have guaranteed them a start in the first three games.
'I have felt that has been a real positive for those players that have felt they have had that opportunity, because it gives you a chance to put yourself in the shop window so to speak.
'We may have to look at that. Do you go with a few more preconceived ideas about what your potential Test team might look like from the start and perhaps pick accordingly?
The Lions will play eight games in total on tour, in what looks like a five-week window, which makes it the shortest tour in Lions history. But Gatland's main fear is ensuring the group can come together as one unit.
'From my experience one of the biggest things to try and achieve on a Lions tour is that it is not about what you do on the field, but what you do off the field,' he continued.
'You try and get some harmony within that team where everyone is pulling together to do the best that they can for the whole of the squad. I have got to make sure I get that right and make everyone feel a part of it.'
Gatland's Wales international contract terminates after the 2019 Japan World Cup, and there has been plenty of speculation over what his next move will be, with the England and New Zealand head roles in the mix. But while the coach is no doubt this Lions tour will be his last, he is yet to lay down any concrete plans.
'I think so, I would have done the (Lions tour) rounds,' he said. 'I finish with Wales after the World Cup and I am talking to a couple of people, but there is nothing formal at the moment. Hopefully in the next few months I'll make a decision about what my future is going to be potentially after the Lions.

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