Wales coach Warren Gatland suffers double heel injury

Warren Gatland must have surgery after breaking both his heels in an accident while on holiday in New Zealand.

However, he will be available to take charge of Wales' three-Test tour to Australia in June.

After guiding Wales to a second Grand Slam of his reign this season, Gatland, 48, is likely to coach the 2013 British and Irish Lions' tour to Australia.

The Welsh Rugby Union said Gatland would require surgery "to reconstruct his right heel".

If Gatland does not recover as expected, he and WRU chief executive Roger Lewis have recommended that assistant coach Robert Howley take charge on a caretaker basis.

The WRU statement read: "Rob Howley will oversee day-to-day management of the coaching staff in Wales and will play a key role in liaising between the Wales-based staff and the head coach during Gatland's temporary absence from camp.

"Team manager Alan Phillips will keep the head coach informed of all other squad preparation issues."

The governing body's statement added: "[Gatland's] return to Wales has been delayed as he recovers from leg injuries sustained in a fall while working at his family beach house on Waihi Beach at around 8.30am last Easter Monday.

"He was cleaning windows when he lost his balance and fell three metres onto concrete taking the full impact on his heels.

"He suffered multiple fractures to the right calcaneus and also a fracture to the left calcaneus.

"Consequently, he is in leg casts and requires surgery by the leading orthopaedic surgeon in the Waikato to reconstruct his right heel.

"The injury he suffered is not expected to have any major impact on the continuing preparations for scheduled Wales matches in June 2012."

Lewis said: "I have spoken to Warren on a number of occasions since his fall and have told him he will lead the tour to Australia unless anything unforeseen happens in the prognosis for recovery we are working to."