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Henry: Gatland the man for the Lions

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Sportal.co.nz     29 Apr 2013     Getty Images

Henry told Walesonline.co.uk that while the Lions tour had taken a heavy toll on him he had learnt a lot from the experience.

Henry felt he was too inexperienced for the job but Gatland was in a much better position.

"Warren is an outstanding coach with a wealth of experience," Henry said.

"He has led Wales to a couple of Grand Slams and they retained the Six Nations this year. I know he was not around, but it was his set-up," he said.

Before joining Wales he had been successful in Ireland and he understood what the Lions were about.

"He is exactly the right man for the job," he said.

Henry said the limited time he had with the side caused him to settle on his Test team well ahead of the first Test in 2001 and this had upset some of the players who went public with their disappointment.

"I did not do things as well as I should have and made some wrong decisions. If I had got them right, we would have won the series," he said.

"I thought I could do the job, but I was green as an international coach then. I now know that the position of Lions head coach is the most demanding in Test rugby."

Henry said he had some fond memories of the 2001 tour because it had been a terrific Test series with some outstanding rugby.

"There was nothing between the teams, seven tries each, and it went to the very end, even though by the third Test injuries had really hit us hard.

"I managed the tour as I did because we were in Australia at the end of a long, hard season and we'd minimal preparation time. What we did show was that we were a very good rugby side," he said.

Selection was the key to success, he said, and while each of the four home nations had selectors involved in 2001, the selection was in Gatland's hands this time.

"Warren has had a long time to look at players, but in the end selection comes down to opinion and in that sense, picking the Lions is the same as selecting any team.

"Otherwise it is different, blending players from four countries for a tour that comes around every four years.

"What happened in the Six Nations is one factor, but it is also about figuring out what it will look like in Australia when you have to pick the best players from the best players," Henry said.

The Wallabies would be hard to beat and had shown their readiness in the Super Rugby series.

"You only have to look at this year's Super 15 to see that the Australian players have a different stride.

"Their teams have played some exceptional rugby and what everyone should always be aware of is what a Lions tour means to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

"For some players, it is not even a once-in-a-lifetime's chance because a tour comes once every 12 years, so for those who are in the frame this year, it is hugely stimulating. I expect it to be another close series," Henry said.