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Warren Gatland: ‘It felt like I was being drained of blood, drop by drop. I was hating the tour’

Taking the Lions to his homeland should have been his proudest moment but now back with Wales the coach believes the welfare of rugby’s elite players is a more pressing concern

“I’ve been on the sidelines of some big games and even I’m scared watching the collisions,” Warren Gatland says after an hour in his company makes it clear he has moved beyond the hurt of coaching the Lions in New Zealand. A far warmer man in person than in his press conferences, Gatland’s concern about the health of rugby’s elite players now overrides his consuming battles as the Lions’ head coach.

“We’ve not seen the impact rugby will have on these young men,” Gatland says when describing the dangers – amid talk that future seasons might be extended. “What’s going to happen in the next 10 or 20 years in terms of them needing new knees, new hips, back and neck injuries? And no-one’s sure of the real consequences of concussion. So the length of the season definitely has an impact. But so does the size and power of the players.”

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