Alexa

Wales, Lions coach Gatland linked to Super Rugby's Chiefs

Wales, Lions coach Gatland linked to Super Rugby's Chiefs

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Wales and British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland is expected to be confirmed as the new coach of the Hamilton-based Chiefs in Super Rugby.

New Zealand media report that Gatland will join the Chiefs on a four-year deal following the resignation on Thursday of Colin Cooper who has been Chiefs head coach for two years.

According to reports, Gatland will coach the Chiefs in 2020 and will take a year off to coach the Lions on their tour to South Africa in 2021 before returning to the Chiefs for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

Gatland recently indicated his intention to return to his native New Zealand to coach a Super Rugby team. He dismissed speculation he might coach England after stepping down as Wales coach, saying he planned to take his family home to New Zealand.

Cooper's sudden and unexpected departure opens the way for Gatland to rejoin the Chiefs. The former All Black coached Waikato province from 2005 to 2007 and was a technical adviser at the Chiefs in 2006 and 2007 before heading to Britain to coach Wales.

In announcing Cooper's departure, Chiefs chief executive Michael Collins said the franchise had already been "discreetly" seeking a replacement.

It now seems likely Cooper was urged to leave to open a vacancy for Gatland. Cooper said he was stepping down to spend more time with family and had no immediate plans for a new coaching position.

Gatland's appointment may not be universally popular in New Zealand. The style of play he produces in his teams — known as "Warrenball" — is seen as limited, one-dimensional and out of synch with the traditional New Zealand style.

The Chiefs, who have reached the Super Rugby playoffs in each of the last two seasons, have a large fund of talented young backs whose skills would likely be stifled under such a forward-oriented approach.

____

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports