The 1014 is proud of a true master of Kiwi ingenuity, The Lion King.

Warren Gatland OBE from Hamilton, completes his Lions Triple Tour this month. Gatland first joined the last great touring side as Forwards Coach in South Africa in 2009, he was also the series winning Head Coach in 2013 against Australia. The 2017 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand enables Gatland to join Sir Ian McGeechan in an exclusive club of Lions Triple Tour Coaches.

Gatland is a good bugger. The Waikato runs through his blood. In rugby terms, he is Kiwi ingenuity personified.

Mooloo Lion King. Warren Gatland - Waikato hooker runs over the line for a try against the Lions Waikato v British Lions, Rugby Park, Hamilton, New Zealand, Tuesday 29th June 1993 ***Mandatory credit: Fotosport/David Gibson***
Warren Gatland – Waikato hooker runs over the line for a try against the Lions
Waikato v British Lions, Rugby Park, Hamilton, New Zealand, Tuesday 29th June 1993
***Mandatory credit: Fotosport/David Gibson***

As a gifted schools player, he excelled at Hamilton Boys High then earned local legend status as part of the tough, uncompromising Waikato teams from 1986 to 1995. Gatland set a record of 140 games for his beloved Waikato.

Mooloo Lion King. Warren Gatland (centre) holds the Ranfurly Shield after winning it from Auckland. NPC Rugby 1993. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport.co.nz
Warren Gatland (centre) holds the Ranfurly Shield after winning it from Auckland. NPC Rugby 1993. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport.co.nz

Ranfurly Shield success and reputation as a hard but mobile hooker followed. A try-scoring performance in 1993 against The British & Irish Lions was his first encounter with his current team.

Mooloo Lion King. Warren Gatland - Waikato hooker dives over the line for a try against the Lions Waikato v British Lions, Rugby Park, Hamilton, New Zealand, Tuesday 29th June 1993 ***Mandatory credit: Fotosport/David Gibson***
Warren Gatland – Waikato hooker dives over the line for a try against the Lions
Waikato v British Lions, Rugby Park, Hamilton, New Zealand, Tuesday 29th June 1993
***Mandatory credit: Fotosport/David Gibson***

1988 saw Gatland become an All Black. The presence of Sean Fitzpatrick, his lack of injuries and the rule of no substitutions without injury kept Gatland restricted to 17 All Black games and no Test cap. However, during this time, Gatland grew a reputation for bringing innovative games and training methods to All Black sessions.

Mooloo Lion King. Warren Gatland and Bruce Deans. All Blacks 1989 tour to Wales and Ireland. New Zealand Rugby Union. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz
Warren Gatland and Bruce Deans. All Blacks 1989 tour to Wales and Ireland. New Zealand Rugby Union. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz

Galwegians, a club in the west of Ireland approached Gatland after the 1989 All Black Tour of Wales & Ireland and offered him a player/coach role. Gatland had already been player/coach with Taupiri and thus began his coaching journey between the two hemispheres.

Gatland is a likeable character and the people of Galway, Ireland warmed to him. His reputation as an innovative coach started to grow again, this time in Ireland. He led Galwegians to a division promotion in the All-Ireland League Division 2. Returning to New Zealand, Gatland helped coach Thames Valley in a division promotion to NPC Division 2.

Rugby turned professional in 1995 and Gatland retired from playing. In 1996 the west of Ireland came calling again, this time at representative level. Gatland became a young professional coach, and like Pat Lam 20 years later, took Connacht, a team with limited resources, and started beating the big boys. The big boys took notice.

Mooloo Lion King. Coach Warren Gatland talks to the media at a press conference just a day before the All Blacks match against Ireland, 16 November 2001, Dublin, Ireland. Photo: Chris Skelton/PHOTOSPROT
Coach Warren Gatland talks to the media at a press conference just a day before the All Blacks match against Ireland, 16 November 2001, Dublin, Ireland. Photo: Chris Skelton/PHOTOSPROT

Warren Gatland became the Head Coach of the Ireland national team at age 34. Again innovation followed. In a conservative Irish set up, Gatland capped a 19 year old Brian O’Driscoll and selected Gordon D’Arcy to tour South Africa while still at school. He rebooted the team, capping 5 new caps on one occasion against Scotland. All 5 players later went on to earn over 65 caps for Ireland. But his Irish days will be remembered for coaching the team to beat France in Paris for the first time in 27 years with a Brian O’Driscoll hat-trick.

Gatlands first season with Ireland saw them finish last in the Five Nations. A mere four years later they finished level on championship points with winners England but lost out on points differential.

Next stop for Gatland was the prestigious English club Wasps in 2002. Gatland found them at the bottom of the Premiership. Four years later, he left them with three Premiership Titles and two European Titles.

Mooloo Lion King. Waikato coach Warren Gatland watches as his team warms up for the round 1 NPC match between Taranaki and Waikato at Waikato Stadium Hamilton, on Friday 12 August, 2005. Waikato won the match 30-6. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/PHOTOSPORT
Waikato coach Warren Gatland watches as his team warms up for the round 1 NPC match between Taranaki and Waikato at Waikato Stadium Hamilton, on Friday 12 August, 2005. Waikato won the match 30-6. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/PHOTOSPORT

Still a young coach at only 42 years old, Gatland took his vast overseas experience home to Waikato in 2005. Waikato won The Air New Zealand Cup in 2006 (NPC). It seemed Gatland was looking for the right fit in New Zealand rugby when Wales came calling in 2007.

In ten seasons with Wales, Gatland has won three Six Nations Championships, including two Grand Slams. Despite a resurgence in Irish and English rugby of late, Wales have won more Grand Slams than either Ireland or England in Gatland’s time in charge. Gatland continues to innovate and blood young players. Most notable in this department was George North at the age of 18. He awarded Sam Warburton the Welsh captaincy at age 22.

Mooloo Lion King. Warren Gatland the Wales coach celebrates with members of his team after their victory over England. England v Wales, RBS 6 Nations, Rugby Union, Twickenham, 25/02/2012 © Matthew Impey/Wiredphotos.co.uk. tel: 07789 130 347 email: matt@wiredphotos.co.uk
Warren Gatland the Wales coach celebrates with members of his team after their victory over England. England v Wales, RBS 6 Nations, Rugby Union, Twickenham, 25/02/2012 © Matthew Impey/Wiredphotos.co.uk. tel: 07789 130 347 email: matt@wiredphotos.co.uk

Lion King…

Gatland was asked by the Lions to coach their forward pack to take on South Africa in 2009. The Lions lost the close fought series but promoted Gatland to Head Coach for the 2013 Tour to Australia. The Lions brand needed a series win badly, they hadn’t won since 1997 in South Africa. The man from Hamilton didn’t disappoint, the Lions won the series. Gatland ruffled a few feathers along the way by making the brave decision to drop popular Brian O’Driscoll for the final Test.

Gatland’s teams have been known for aggressive line speed in defence and big powerful backs in a crash form of attack. The term ‘Warren Ball’ was coined in the successful 2013 Lions Tour of Australia. To suggest that this style is all Gatland brings to the table is to underestimate a true innovator of the game.

Mooloo Lion King. Lions 2013. British & Irish Lions 2013 Head Coach Warren Gatland during The 2013 British & Irish Lions Head Coach Press conference held at  Ironmonger's Hall, Shaftesbury Place, London, England on 4th September 2012 Photo Michael Paler/ Photosport.co.nz
Lions 2013. British & Irish Lions 2013 Head Coach Warren Gatland during The 2013 British & Irish Lions Head Coach Press conference held at Ironmonger’s Hall, Shaftesbury Place, London, England on 4th September 2012 Photo Michael Paler/ Photosport.co.nz

From The Shed

For a more indepth discussion on the Lion King check out the video from The Shed and make sure you miss none of the upcoming action by subscribing to The 1014 YouTube channel. Get involved.

Warren, we here at The 1014 are proud of what you have achieved overseas, you have represented New Zealanders with dignity, grace and huge sporting success. Congratulations on your contribution to world rugby, the game is better for you in it.

Photos: www.photosport.nz

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Author: Gareth Dinneen

Gareth is from Limerick, Ireland and has been obsessed with the All Blacks and NZ culture since 1989. He first arrived in NZ in 2001 to tutor in New Media and has since worked with Weta Digital on movies like Avatar, King Kong, The Avengers and most recently Valerian. Gareth grew up listening to his father Len on sports radio. Len is known as ‘The Voice of Rugby’ in Munster, Ireland. The 1014 brings Gareth right back to his sports media roots.

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