Warren Gatland appointed Lions head coach for 2021 South Africa tour

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The British and Irish Lions will be head coached by Warren Gatland for their 2021 tour of South Africa.

The expected news was confirmed on Tuesday morning and will see the New Zealander complete a hat-trick of Lions tours in that role.

The 55-year-old is unbeaten in two consecutive tours to Australia and New Zealand – winning the former 2-1 in 2013 and drawing the latter 1-1 in 2017.

In being named head coach, he is only the second person to lead a third tour after Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan.

Gatland will start as head coach on August 1, 2020, and will work exclusively with the Lions until the conclusion of the 2021 tour to South Africa 12 months later – ruling out any possibility of taking the England job.

The current Wales boss, who is leaving after the World Cup this autumn, has already been part of a touring party to South Africa in 2009 as McGeechan’s forwards coach.

‘I’m hugely honoured and delighted to lead the Lions again,’ said Gatland.

‘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.

‘History tells you it’s a tough place to tour, but I am 100 per cent confident that we can go there and win – I would not be here if I thought differently.

‘I’m delighted to now have everything in place to begin full-time in August 2020 as that gives me the best possible chance to plan for South Africa, but for the time being my focus is entirely on the Rugby World Cup and delivering a successful campaign for Wales.’

Should Gatland avoid defeat, he would create Lions history by becoming the first person to lead tours to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and remain unbeaten.

Former Lions prop and now chairman Jason Leonard is adamant that Gatland can lead the Lions to their first series win in South Africa since 1997.

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 said.

‘He has the skills 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.

‘We may be playing away in the heartland of South Africa, but I am confident that yet again, we will have enormous support and they will feel like home games. As a player it made all the difference, and now I can’t wait to be part of the famous sea of red enjoying the tour of a lifetime.’ 

 

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