Rugby: Warren Gatland confirmed as coach for third British & Irish Lions tour

Warren Gatland coaching Wales in the Six Nations championship
Warren Gatland coaching Wales in the Six Nations championship. Photo credit: Photosport

Kiwi Warren Gatland has been officially unveiled as the British & Irish Lions head coach for the 2021 tour to South Africa.

Gatland will relinquish his role as Wales boss after the World Cup and will then start his official Lions duties in August 2020.

The 55-year-old former All Blacks hooker will lead the Lions for the third consecutive tour, having assisted Sir Ian McGeechan in South Africa in 2009, before winning the 2013 series in Australia and drawing with New Zealand in 2017.

"I'm hugely honoured and delighted to lead the Lions again," Gatland said. "It is exciting and a great challenge to coach the best players from the four 'Home Nations'.

"The Lions rightly have a truly special place in the game and I jumped at the chance to be involved again, when I was approached about the role.

"South Africa is a special place to play rugby.

"They have some of the most iconic stadiums in the world, which will be packed full of passionate fans, and the Springboks have shown in recent times that they are back to being one of the dominant forces in the game.

"Having toured there in 2009, I know the scale of the task ahead of us. Playing in South Africa presents a number of unique challenges, such as playing at altitude, while the Boks will always be physical, aggressive and highly motivated."

Gatland has committed himself fully to the Lions until after the 2021 tour.

The in-demand boss' long-term future remains up for debate, but he will first bid to leave Wales on a high at the World Cup.

Gatland has coached Wales since 2008, and now has the chance to become the first Lions head coach to remain unbeaten on tours to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

PA