Robertson eyes Lions tour after All Blacks snub

Canterbury Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson, seen here in May 2019, says he wants to join next year's British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa after being overlooked for the All Blacks job. AFP/File/Marty MELVILLE

Canterbury Crusaders coach Scott Robertson revealed Friday that he wants to join next year’s British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa after being overlooked for the All Blacks job.

Robertson, regarded as one of the game’s hottest coaching talents after winning four straight Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, also said he was open to working in France.

New Zealand Rugby was widely criticised last year when it did not appoint Robertson to replace the outgoing Steve Hansen, instead promoting assistant coach Ian Foster to the top job.

Despite the snub, Robertson said he still wanted international experience and had approached Lions coach Warren Gatland — currently at Waikato Chiefs — about going on tour next year.

“Once I missed the All Blacks job, I actually reached out to Gats and asked him if I could go on that tour,” he told radio station Gold FM.

“I thought, ‘Look, if I can’t be involved with the All Blacks, what’s the biggest thing — or actually bigger in its own self the Lions tour — to get involved’.”

The 45-year-old said Gatland had taken his request to Lions management and it was being considered.

“Something that really drives me and motivates me is probably to learn and understand,” he said.

“Obviously Gats has been hugely successful at the international level as a coach so he’s a person to learn off and also allows me to not have to go offshore to actually coach and get that international experience.”

Gatland has negotiated a year’s absence from his Chiefs duties to coach the Lions, and Robertson would probably have to do something similar with the Crusaders.

The South Africa tour — if it takes place amid the global COVID-19 pandemic — is scheduled for July-August, and the timing of next year’s Super Rugby season remains unclear.

Robertson also floated the possibility of coaching in France, where he played for three years with Perpignan.

“One of the reasons I played in France is so I could learn French to coach there one day. If that’s the right thing and the right timing, then great. I’ve got some options,” he said.

Robertson is contracted at the Crusaders until the end of 2021 and the South Islanders would be keen to retain the innovative coach.

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