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British & Irish Lions Tour 2013
Gatland dismisses Lions fitness fears
ESPN Staff
May 27, 2012
Wales coach Warren Gatland dictates proceedings, Wales training session, Vale of Glamorgan Resort, Cardiff, Wales, August 4, 2011
Warren Gatland is expected to lead the Lions in 2013 © Getty Images
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Wales coach Warren Gatland has dismissed speculation that his recent heel injury will prevent him from coaching the British & Irish Lions in Australia.

The 48-year-old led Wales to a third Grand Slam in eight seasons in March but suffered a double fracture in a fall while at home in New Zealand, ruling him out of the opening stages of Wales' series against the Wallabies in June.

Recent reports have also suggested that the former Waikato coach will be stopped from leading the Lions in 2013 due to the injuries, rumours he quickly denied in an interview with BBC ScrumV.

A deal is yet to be confirmed between the Lions and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), who are expected to allow Gatland a sabbatical to work with the elite tourists, although he is hopeful that an agreement can be struck.

"I've spoken to them [the Lions] obviously, and that's been well-documented," Gatland said. "And I think they're just waiting to have assurance that the injury is going to heal, [that] it's not going to be a hindrance in 12 months.

"I can assure you I'm going to be right in a few weeks and be up and running around. I think perhaps the next process is the Lions agreeing with Wales and Roger Lewis in terms of the release period and what the compensation is.

"When that's done [the next task] is then perhaps sitting down with myself and hopefully being able to agree terms as well in terms of time-frame and whatever else. So I'd like to think we're reasonably close, but until all those things are done nothing's final until, I suppose, the dotted lines have been signed."

Gatland will miss Wales' opening Test against Australia on June 9 - with attack coach Rob Howley taking the reins - but is hopeful of playing some role in the remaining games in Melbourne and Sydney.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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