It makes a great story, this idea that if Warren Gatland can coach the Lions to victory in New Zealand, he'll push himself into pole position to be the next All Blacks coach.

But like a lot of good stories, it wouldn't be letting the truth get in the way. Gatland has plenty of experience, great rugby knowledge, a proven temperament and has enjoyed success with Wales, Wasps and the British and Irish Lions, but there are two major issues that may weigh heavily against him becoming the next All Blacks coach.

The first is that a little bit of ill-feeling lingers over some of his historic dealings with the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).

That dates back to 2007 when he was coaching Waikato and hoping to pick up a Super Rugby head coaching role in 2008. He was offered the Highlanders job, but didn't want to move to Dunedin, so turned it down.


A few months later, he was appointed head coach of Wales, suggesting it was a move he had little option to make as New Zealand hadn't put anything on the table to keep him.

"I was hoping to have an opportunity to be in charge of a Super 14 side but that hasn't been available to me since I have been back in New Zealand, so you've just got to look at all the chances and opportunities in front of you," he told the Herald in 2007.

Those comments didn't sit well with the NZRU who felt Gatland had disingenuously presented the truth.

There was more friction in 2010 when the Chiefs made Gatland an offer to take over after the 2011 World Cup.

Gatland was in the midst of negotiations to possibly stay on with Wales beyond 2011 at the same time and when he opted to stay in the Principality, the NZRU felt he had been using them purely as leverage.

They felt they made him a good offer to come home - at the top end of what other New Zealand Super Rugby coaches were earning at that time - but that his salary expectations were unrealistically high.

The dim view they held about that period won't have been improved by Gatland's comments a few days ago when he said the national body low-balled him and was then inflexible on the offer they initially made.

"But it wasn't a money thing," Gatland told the Times. "I went back and said, 'Is there any chance for a bit of movement - you've offered me less money than in 2007 when I left?' In my mind, I was thinking: If they offer me a little more, say $15,000, I will sign. And they came back and said,: 'Take it or leave it.'"


But a bigger barrier to Gatland winning the All Blacks job when Steve Hansen steps down - likely to be after the 2019 World Cup - is his lack of time spent coaching in New Zealand and length of time in charge of Wales.

On the first point, Gatland's coaching style has been moulded around the sorts of players available in the Northern Hemisphere. It's perhaps a little unfair to pigeonhole his teams too tightly, but there is a definite pattern that teams coached by Gatland play to.

He has a fixed style, which is probably true of most coaches, but it's a style that would sell New Zealand players short.

Gatland could justifiably argue that he would adapt his style to suit the players but without having been here since 2007, there would be concerns that he wouldn't fully grasp the skill levels, mindsets and vision that exists in New Zealand rugby.

On the second point, the NZRU would have to ask whether they would be happy to see Gatland spend 12 years with Wales and then come straight into the All Blacks' job.

What message would that send to the likes of Ian Foster, Tana Umaga, Chris Boyd and Tony Brown who have committed to New Zealand rugby and are learning their craft here with the hope they are on the right path to the highest coaching role in the game?

The issue wouldn't be with Gatland coming into the All Blacks role from an overseas post - Hansen and Wayne Smith were both appointed as All Blacks assistants in 2004 from offshore jobs - but the ratio of how much time he has spent in Europe compared with New Zealand.

Gatland has been a professional coach since 1996 but only two of those years - 2006-07 - were in New Zealand.

However compelling an argument Gatland could mount about his experience and ability to be the next All Blacks coach, he can't change the career path he has followed.