Tuesday, 18 June, 2019

Gatland named Lions coach for 2021 South Africa tour

Warren Gatland has agreed to become head coach of the British and Irish Lions for the tour to South Africa in 2021 Warren Gatland has agreed to become head coach of the British and Irish Lions for the tour to South Africa in 2021 Credit PA
Shannon Reynolds | 14 June, 2019, 16:45

Gatland was the assistant coach to Ian McGeechan when the Lions toured South Africa in 2009 and from that experience, he knows that it is going to be a huge challenge.

The 55-year-old will depart his position as Wales head coach after this year's World Cup in Japan. "I have been head coach with Waikato and won a championship there, and I want to challenge myself with Super Rugby".

The British and Irish Lions have opted for continuity by appointing New Zealander Warren Gatland as the team's head coach for the 2021 tour to South Africa.

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

Warburton has since retired so that's him out, but another Welshman is in the frame with Gatland naming Alun Wyn Jones and Owen Farrell today as two potential candidates to lead them in South Africa.

"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".

The New Zealand native will step down from his role as the head coach of Wales following the Rugby World Cup later this year.

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Asked if it will be his last Lions tour, Gatland replied: "I think so, yeah. But two years is a long time and you never know what's going to happen in the game".

He initially appeared reluctant to continue his successful Lions reign claiming he was hurt by an "orchestrated campaign" of criticism by the New Zealand media in 2017.

"It's probably the hardest thing that you'll ever do as a coach in terms of planning and preparation and the scrutiny of the press is always something that's at the forefront of the Lions tour".

Lions chairman Jason Leonard, who played on the victorious 1997 tour, said: "One of Warren's greatest strengths is the ability to galvanise a group quickly and the last two Lions tours have shown that Warren understands and truly loves the Lions". If I was able to achieve that, and the squad were able to achieve that, it would be something pretty special.

"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". I have been extremely privileged to be involved and this will be my fourth tour.

Speaking about his latest appointment, which was widely expected, Gatland said he had "unfinished business" against the Springboks. "I am so thankful to be given the opportunity".

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