Lions' Gatland shows his ruthless streak
Andrew Baldock
07:16 AEST Fri Dec 14 2012

The 2013 British and Irish Lions will be in safe hands with Warren Gatland.

It might be the best part of six months before the Lions head to Australia via a Hong Kong appointment with David Young's Barbarians, but Gatland is already making his presence felt.

During his entire tenure as Lions head coach, Gatland might never have to contemplate a tougher decision than one he has already made.

On a frosty morning in Edinburgh yesterday, it was announced that Gatland's coaching assistants Down Under next summer would be Rob Howley, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.

The appointments had been widely trailed for the best part of a week, yet reality still resulted in many raised eyebrows. The reason? No Shaun Edwards.

The former Wigan rugby league star, one of Gatland's trusty lieutenants throughout his 56-Test reign as Wales supremo, played an integral Lions coaching role on the 2009 tour to South Africa.

And it did not require a degree in rocket science to put him among the front-runners this time around.

But in omitting Edwards from his plans, Gatland proved once again he was not afraid to make the hardest calls. And, as usual, he made it against a back-drop of what he perceives to be a bigger picture.

"It was pretty agonising really," said Gatland, reflecting on Edwards missing out.

"There was a lot of speculation - people talking about Shaun. For me, that was the most difficult decision to have to make.

"He is a world-class coach who has been very, very successful. But I felt that, from a selfish point of view, I wanted someone fresh (Farrell) who I haven't worked with, who would challenge me.

"I told Shaun a few days ago - that's when I spoke to him about my final decision. He appreciated the call, but at the same time he was very, very disappointed.

"It wasn't the easiest decision in the world to make. But it is a profession, it is a business and I have to make those hard calls."

That inner steel, the ruthless edge, the borne-winner competitiveness are what sets Gatland apart.

And the call on Edwards underlined a clear thought-process, an unhindered vision of what he wants and a determination to get it.

He has previously said that he would not be afraid to leave out the Lions captain from his Test team if form selections dictated such a course of action.

And the Edwards business provides further proof that Gatland will do what he feels needs to be done towards achieving the primary objective of a Test series triumph in Australia.

It is more than 15 years since the Lions won a Test series anywhere, but Gatland is already on the right road to achieving that aim.

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going" is a fitting mantra ahead of any Lions tour, and Gatland is living up to it.

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