Warren Gatland relaxes Lions stance: It's a hard job to turn down

Gatland has presided over two Lions tours and is yet to taste series defeat. PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

Warren Gatland has hinted he would be open to leading the British & Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa in 2021.

Two weeks ago Gatland ruled out taking charge of the Lions in four years' time, proclaiming: "I'm done. I hated the tour. I did. I just hated the press and the negativity in New Zealand."

But the 54-year-old has relaxed that stance and admitted he could be tempted to complete the set of tours, having led the Lions to victory in Australia in 2013 and helped his team claim a dramatic draw against the All Blacks.

"It's a hard job to turn down and walk away from," Gatland said in an interview with The Mail on Sunday.

"I made those comments about not wanting to do it again because I was pretty hurt.

"As far as me coaching the Lions again, never say never."

Gatland also responded to Sean O'Brien's stinging attack on the coaching team in New Zealand.

The Ireland and Leinster flanker took aim at the approach of the Lions set-up and felt the tourists should have whitewashed the world champions.

Gatland said: "My thing to Sean is, if he can look himself in the mirror and say, 'I was the most professional person on tour, on and off the field, in New Zealand', in terms of the way he prepared himself, then I think his points would be more valid.

"I was disappointed with his comments. I thought him coming out and saying we should have won 3-0 was pretty disrespectful to New Zealand. That's where he lost his credibility.

"He came out and he was critical but what was his solution? There was nothing. It was words without a solution. If you are going to come out and say something, give us what the answer is."