The head coach confirmed his preparation plans for this summer’s series alongside the unveiling of his coaching staff – a decision that is set to bring arguably one of the most high-profile teams in world sport across the Channel for at least ten days in June.
Gatland visited the Island in February to inspect local sports facilities and accommodation, including Strive, the new performance centre and health club which is due to open in St Peter next month. At that stage Jersey was on a shortlist of contenders to act as the squad’s training base, but speculation now appears to have been put to rest.
It is understood that the Lions, who will arrive on or just after 13 June, will fly direct from Jersey to Edinburgh at the end of their stay to play a pre-tour friendly against Japan at Murrayfield.
‘It’s something we hadn’t thought about originally but there was an approach from Jersey and now official confirmation from the government and we’re now definitely looking to go there,’ Gatland said.
‘The gym facility next to the rugby club [Strive] is outstanding and it fits our needs well.
‘We understand we may need to quarantine for a certain amount of time but there’s a potential for almost normality in Jersey in preparation for that first game against Japan, before we go into a pretty secure bubble for South Africa. That’s definitely one of the factors we considered for Jersey.’
It is believed that further talks will take place this week, featuring the Lions’ medical staff and key advisors.
'I, like everyone else, will be doing my bit to ensure we have a safe and secure environment,' Gatland added.
‘We’re hoping before we go on tour to have everyone in the touring party vaccinated. We’re working towards that and we feel it will be important to have that in place.'
Strive director Ben Harvey, who instigated initial discussions between Gatland and the Government of Jersey, says the facility will be well-equipped to help the players fine-tune before the tour – particularly with two of the Tests against the Springboks due to take place at altitude in Johannesburg.
‘It may well be that to get a bit of an advantage the coaches will take them to altitude and our altitude chamber will be able to replicate the sort of work required at that level,’ Harvey explained.
Full story in Wednesday's JEP.