Gatland named Lions head coach for 2021 tour

Warren Gatland will be the Lions head coach for the third consecutive tour. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Warren Gatland has been confirmed as the head coach of the British & Irish Lions for the tour of South Africa in 2021.

Gatland will coach the Lions for a record third successive time after leading the team to victory in Australia 2013 and earning a historic draw against New Zealand in 2017.

The 55-year-old will depart his position as Wales head coach after this year's World Cup in Japan.

"I'm hugely honoured and delighted to lead the Lions again," Gatland said at a press conference. "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 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 won four Six Nations titles during his 12-year spell with Wales, including a third Grand Slam earlier this year. He also led Wales to the semifinals of the World Cup in 2011 and they head into the tournament this year ranked as the second best team in the world.

Sources had confirmed to ESPN last month that Gatland verbally agreed to lead the Lions for the South African tour.

Ben Calveley, managing director of the British & Irish Lions, added: "We're delighted to have got our man; Warren is a world-class coach, boasts a proven track record, and knows the Lions better than anyone else currently coaching in world rugby - so naturally he was our first-choice candidate from the start of the process.

"This was a unanimous decision from the Lions board, and it was important that we moved swiftly and proactively to secure Warren's signature."

Gatland will start as head coach on 1 August 2020 and he will work with the Lions until the end of the 2021 tour in South Africa.

Lions chairman Jason Leonard said: "Warren's record as a Lions coach is almost unparalleled and the challenge of quickly blending a successful team together from the four Home Nations cannot be overestimated.

"One of his greatest strengths is the ability to galvanise a group quickly, and the last two tours have shown clearly that Warren understands -- and truly loves -- the Lions.

"He has the skill set and the know-how to make a Lions tour work as it should, so we're certain he is the right man to lead us to a Test series victory."