Rob Howley has been named as Wales head coach while Warren Gatland concentrates on his New Zealand tour role with the British and Irish Lions for the next 10 months.
Howley, a long-term Wales assistant coach under Gatland, will take up the role and have what the Welsh Rugby Union announced as “full responsibility” for the senior team with immediate effect. The season features four autumn Tests and a Six Nations campaign.
It is a reprise of the 2012-13 season when Gatland headed up the Lions tour of Australia. Under Howley, Wales lost all of their autumn games that campaign, but recovered impressively to win the Six Nations title.
Lions boss Gatland has been seconded from his WRU role until after the New Zealand tour ends next July.
He was officially unveiled as Lions supremo in Edinburgh on Wednesday and heads to New Zealand on Thursday for a a look at training venues and hotels, in addition to watching the All Blacks tackle Rugby Championship opponents Argentina and South Africa.
Wales, meanwhile, kick off their autumn campaign against Australia in Cardiff on November 5th, which is followed on successive weekends by appointments with Argentina, Japan and South Africa.
Former Wales captain Howley said: "I am delighted, proud and extremely excited to be named Wales head coach for this period.
“I would like to congratulate Warren on his thoroughly deserved selection and the honour of being named head coach for a second successive Lions tour.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being head coach in 2012 and 2013. I am excited to have the challenge once again, and I would like to thank the WRU for this opportunity.
“We kick off four back-to-back matches in Cardiff, with Australia first up on November 5. Not only is the Under Armour series important for us on the field, the 2019 Rugby World Cup seedings will be decided upon post 2017 Six Nations so each match is vitally important to us looking ahead to that competition.”
Gatland, meanwhile, described 45-year-old Howley’s appointment as “great news for the squad.”
Howley joined the WRU as assistant Wales coach in 2008, and currently works alongside Robin McBryde, Shaun Edwards and Neil Jenkins in Gatland's coaching team.
WRU group chief executive Martyn Phillips added: “We would like to congratulate Warren on the appointment and the honour of leading the British and Irish Lions for a second consecutive tour. The appointment is recognition of Warren’s standing in the game, and we are proud to support his role.
“We are delighted to appoint Rob as head coach of Wales for the period that Warren is away.
“Rob is a very experienced international coach and forms part of one of the most experienced coaching teams in the international game.
“Added to this, we have a very experienced squad of players, with a strong leadership group, and we believe that combination gives us a strong basis on which to perform for the season ahead.
“We considered a range of options, domestically and overseas, when contingency planning for this eventuality and determined that Rob represents the optimum appointment for Wales.”