Interim Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan has weighed in on speculation surrounding Warren Gatland’s future with the team.
The former policeman has gone from a rookie Super Rugby coach to one on the lips of players and pundits alike, thanks largely in part to the four-match winning streak the Chiefs have enjoyed in Super Rugby Aotearoa over the past month.
Not only are the Chiefs a real chance to make the final, one more victory would give McMillan a better coaching record than the vastly experienced Gatland who hasn’t been seen in the region since late last year.
Comparisons were always inevitable, and now that the Chiefs appear more settled across the board, McMillan decided it was time to tackle some of the media speculation about his predecessor who is currently offshore with the British and Irish Lions.
“I want to take this opportunity because I know a lot has been written in the media about the team going well and Gats [Gatland] being away,” McMillan said. “Our team is only going to be better with him being involved in this environment and while I’m really happy to be leading the team this year in an interim role, I always knew it was going to be an interim role with Gats coming back.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 20, 2021
McMillan and Gatland have regularly touched base after each game, but in the eyes of some media pundits, an awkward situation arises once Gatland retakes the reigns next season, especially if the Chiefs were to go all the way this year.
Much of the discussion has only come about because of the Chiefs’ turnaround in fortunes and the curious nature to the original deal with Gatland, a deal which allowed the 57-year-old to miss the entire 2021 season due to his Lions commitments, effectively ushering in McMillan for a one-stint head coaching role before shifting back down the ranks.
“One of the real attractions for me was to work alongside a man of that level of experience,” McMillan said. “Absolutely nothing has changed and this environment will be all the better for it.”
McMillan credits the adversity the Chiefs went through in 2020 for their turnaround in results, saying his job has been made easy by the collective drive to avoid a similar losing run ever happening again.
“To be really fair, the adversity the team went through and the collective feeling that no one wanted to go through again has really made my job easy.”
Getting the victory over the four-time defending champions hasn’t come without a cost. In form loose forward Luke Jacobson will miss the next match due to concussion after waking up on Sunday feeling worse for wear following a knock against the Crusaders.
It’s a worry given Jacobson’s history with concussion but reports out of Chiefs camp are that the 24-year-old has returned to training in the gym in good spirits.
“Luke woke up on Sunday feeling a little bit dusty so we just ruled him out of the week but he’s been back in the gym today looking bright as anything so there are no real concerns.”
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