Warren Gatland backs Eddie Jones for British & Irish Lions job in 2021

Warren Gatland has backed England coach Eddie Jones as his successor for the British & Irish Lions job

Warren Gatland says Eddie Jones would do a “great job” as British and Irish Lions coach and jokingly predicted a series whitewash against South Africa in 2021.

Gatland led the Lions on their last two tours, winning 2-1 in Australia in 2013 before the series draw with New Zealand last summer, but has previously ruled himself out of contention to coach the next tour.

The Wales coach is hoping to get the better of Jones in the Six Nations on Saturday, but faces an England side who have yet to lose at Twickenham with the Australian in charge.

When asked about the possibility of Jones coaching the Lions, Gatland appeared to give a tongue-in-cheek response.

“He’d do a great job as Lions coach,” Gatland said. “3-0 would be expected. It’s probably the easiest of the three tours isn’t it?”

England began their defence of the Six Nations title with a 46-15 victory over Italy last weekend and Gatland admits to being impressed with Jones’ work.

“I’m learning from him. He’s doing a great job so I’m watching him pretty closely,” he said.

“I’m just intrigued by watching him, the way he coaches his team. You learn as much as you possibly can from everyone. That’s part of the game. The game changes and you try to learn as much as you can.”

Jones signed a contract extension with England this year to keep him in the role until 2021, but the Rugby Football Union have confirmed he would still be available to lead the Lions’ next tour.

Jones was prevented from coaching the Lions in New Zealand last year by Twickenham officials, but RFU chief executive Steve Brown is open to him being at the helm for the tour to South Africa.

Speaking at the announcement of Jones’ new deal in January, Brown said: “This wouldn’t prohibit him at all. Bear in mind that we’re a quarter-shareholder in the Lions and we’ll have some say in that too.

“If we’re planning for success, we’ve come out of very successful World Cup and Eddie is the right coach for the Lions then our arrangement isn’t going to preclude that.”