New Zealand Rugby have made a "massive concession" by appointing Warren Gatland as Chiefs coach, according to former All Black Justin Marshall.
Radio Sport revealed this morning that Gatland has signed a four-year deal to return to the Waikato for the 2020 Super Rugby season but will be released next August to coach the British and Irish Lions, before returning to New Zealand for the 2022 and 2023 Super Rugby campaigns.
Marshall said New Zealand Rugby won't be happy about the special terms of Gatland's contract, but it was the right play to make.
"It's a massive concession," Marshall told Radio Sport. "The New Zealand Rugby Union have not often given too much leniency when it involves helping the rest of the world. And to an extent that's what Warren Gatland will be doing. There's also a bit of information from New Zealand Rugby that he'll be taking with him.
"They won't be happy about it, but they see the value of having him here, and are prepared to concede that to let him go and coach the Lions and bring a bit of the skillset, information, ideas into the Lions camp, which educates players from the northern hemisphere. But they still see there's more value in having him in New Zealand than not, so they're prepared to let the rope out a little bit. I think that's brilliant. We've got to move with the future, and we've got to look at the overall picture rather than the short-term one. This is showing more compassion."
The 55-year-old Gatland is calling time on more than a decade as Wales head coach after this year's World Cup in Japan and has already been confirmed as the next British and Irish Lions coach to tour South Africa in 2021.
Marshall said Gatland will help create a successful culture that will lure players to Hamilton.
"Without doubt, the Crusaders have had this incredible ability to attract players simply because of the culture they've developed within the franchise, players want to go there.
"And then when players are offered bigger money or other opportunities they are reluctant to go, because they know they're in an environment where they can produce their best rugby. And I think with guys like Warren Gatland, they give the players that same level of comfort. They're not going into the unknown, they can see the coach has been successful, that he gets the best out of players and it makes you more decisive in your decision. You know, given his history, he will make you a better player."
Marshall said the decision to bring a coach of Gatland's experience back to New Zealand was simply too hard to pass up.
"I've always said that for New Zealand Rugby to be innovators and stay at the top of all competitions, including international rugby, we need to have the best resources available to educate our players and make them the best they can be, and when you have someone as successful as Warren Gatland, a Kiwi, who has plenty to offer - get him back.
"The other part of that education is for developing our coaches. I think Tabai Matson is going to be a future Super Rugby head coach, and he's an excellent coach right now, but it won't do him any harm to learn for a few years under Warren Gatland. All in all, these decisions are good for everyone in the game."
AT A GLANCE
Warren Gatland's coaching career
Galwegians RFC: 1989-94
Thames Valley (assistant): 1994-96
London Wasps: 2002-05
Chiefs (technical advisor): 2006-07
Lions: 2009 (assistant), 2013, 2017, 2021