Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland may be remembered for a dire reign at the Super Rugby franchise but the British and Irish Lions coach may yet be able to help the Waikato side out. The Chiefs lost their ninth game in a row, against the Hurriance – a record – compounding Gatland’s misery in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
This week former Welsh rugby boss Gatland offered to work for free for the Chiefs next season, should the Lions tour be called off. Yet should the tour go ahead, the Chiefs could still benefit from their connection with the British and Irish Lions coach.
Looking to make up for the Chiefs’ risible season under his watch, Gatland could now wrangle Saracens’ Lions stars, themselves eager for top class competition, for next’s season competition. Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell will have a need for elite game time, and the North London club’s year in the RFU Championship could potentially facilitate a Super Rugby fling that might not have been possible in other circumstances.
Earlier this year Harlequins set a precedent, loaning out rising England prospect Joe Marchant to the Auckland Blues, a move that seemed to pay off for both sides and the player himself.
This week Saracens boss Mark McCall revealed to PA that he was open to the idea and that the two coaches had been in communication.
“Those senior players might only need a couple of Championship games to keep them ticking over. If they need more competitive rugby there are avenues to make decisions with that player.”
Asked about possible Super Rugby loans, McCall stated: “I don’t think it is out of the question but this is their golden opportunity to have a quieter club year, something akin to a sabbatical.
“I don’t think if that was to happen it would be for very long. It would be to get enough rugby to make sure they are firing come the Lions tour.
“I talked to Warren Gatland on Monday and he was very happy with the situation.
“The Lions have a warm-up game before the tour where I would expect all of our players selected to tour to be involved. There are some warm-up games before the first Test match and that might be enough for them.
“The opportunity has arisen for these players to have a little bit of a different year and we will look to use it as wisely as we can.”
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