Eddie Jones believes Warren Gatland is the man to lead the 2017 British and Irish Lions’ tour to New Zealand – even though it is England’s head coach who stands on the brink of a grand slam.
Jones has already ruled himself out of contention for the role and remains steadfast in refusing to be considered for the most coveted job in home nations rugby, insisting his sole focus is guiding the Red Rose into the next World Cup.
An appointment will be made by the Lions in mid-September and, on the form of the current RBS 6 Nations, Jones would be clear favourite as England have been crowned champions with a round to spare and will complete a precious Grand Slam if they despatch France in Paris on Saturday.
But Jones, who would be happy for any of his assistants to be appointed to the coaching team, reckons Gatland is the outstanding candidate to reprise a role he fulfilled with success in Australia in 2003.
“I’m not interested and the only reason that I’m not interested is because I’ve come here to coach England,” Jones said.
“For me to make England the strongest team in the world, I’ve got four years and I’ve got to spend every minute that I can on that.
“I’ll need some time to wind down as well and to recharge my batteries and I don’t think that it is of any benefit to England for me to coach the Lions.
“The only reason I would even contemplate making myself available for the Lions would be for a selfish reason, and I’m not prepared to do that.
“If you look at European rugby over the last period of time, then Warren is by far the most accomplished coach.
“And I think after the last Lions tour he deserves it. I find it difficult to understand why there’s a debate over it.
“I’d be quite happy for our staff to go, because some of our staff would definitely benefit from the Lions tour.”