July 6, 2017 / 6:51 AM / 3 months ago

Rugby-Gatland leaves it to fate as Lions prepare for 'career game'

AUCKLAND, July 6 (Reuters) - British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland was not keen to undermine the magnitude of what his side can achieve in the series-deciding third test against the All Blacks on Saturday, but as far as he was concerned, it had no effect on his future.

The Lions levelled the three-match series at 1-1 last week with a 24-21 victory at the Wellington Regional Stadium and have a chance to clinch only their second series victory in New Zealand at Eden Park.

A series victory would be a massive feather in the cap for New Zealander Gatland and with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen expected to call it quits when his contract ends in 2020, the former hooker has been mentioned as a possible successor with his Wales contract expiring in 2019.

“I‘m a great believer in what will be will be,” Gatland told reporters on Thursday when asked if a Lions series victory against the All Blacks would be career defining.

“That’s the way I’ve always been. I don’t think about the future. I don’t sit here and plan what I‘m going to do in 2019 or next year,” he added.

”Things happen and I’ve been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. For me the future will take care of itself.

”If you’re successful in the environment then opportunities come your way. That’s the way I look at the way things over the next couple of years.

“Saturday will be great to win but then the preparation and the focus goes on the autumn, the Six Nations and preparing Wales for the World Cup in 2019.”

Gatland, perhaps with tongue in cheek, also suggested that he was just as likely to go sit on the beach after the World Cup in Japan and happily retire. He turns 56 just before the 2019 tournament begins.

The former Wasps and Ireland coach, however, did acknowledge his players were aware of the importance of the Eden Park match if they were not getting overly wrought about it quite yet.

“They have an opportunity to leave a bit of a legacy. This hasn’t been done since 1971,” Gatland said.

”I have no doubt... the players will start thinking about it later on but there’s no point in getting emotionally too involved. It’s too far away.

”That will build over the next 48 hours as they get closer to the match then the players will start to think... that they have a chance to do something special.

”You get those moments in the life and you don’t want to let them pass you by.

“That’s what the big sporting occasions are about.” (Editing by John O‘Brien)

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