Warren Gatland has been appointed head coach for the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand.
The 52-year-old Kiwi fills the role for the second time after masterminding a 2-1 series victory over Australia three years ago and will begin a sabbatical from his position as Wales boss immediately.
“Coaching the Lions is a great privilege. The 2013 tour was a real career highlight for me and I’m honoured to be offered the role again,” Gatland said.
Gatland will be at the helm for the toughest assignment in the game with a three-Test series against the All Blacks the culmination of a 10-fixture tour that includes five games against Super Rugby opposition and a clash with the Maori.
The Lions have prevailed just once in 11 previous visits to New Zealand – John Dawes’ 1971 tourists triumphed 2-1 – and were demolished in their last meeting with the All Blacks in 2005
Gatland, who was also part of Ian McGeechan’s coaching team in South Africa seven years ago, is convinced the tourists can prevail against the odds.
“I know from having been in New Zealand recently how much excitement there is ahead of next year,” Gatland said.
“For the All Blacks a Lions series is the ultimate test, but I’m 100% confident that we can go and win in New Zealand.”
Gatland will finalise the make-up of his own coaching team before the end of the year.
“The chance to work with the best players from the four Home Nations is a coach’s dream and we have some outstanding talent to select from,” Gatland said.
“Likewise, there are some outstanding coaches who could potentially be involved and we’ll look to announce them in December.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how they and the players get on domestically, in Europe and internationally.”
Gatland, who has won two Grand Slams with Wales, departs for New Zealand on Thursday to begin plotting the All Blacks’ downfall and will be accompanied by tour manager John Spencer