Warren Gatland ‘honoured’ to retain role as Lions head coach
Outgoing Wales boss becomes second person to lead Lions on three tours after McGeechan
Warren Gatland has been confirmed as head coach of the Lions for a third time. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Warren Gatland has been appointed head coach of the British & Irish Lions for the 2021 tour of South Africa. Gatland becomes only the second man after Ian McGeechan to lead the Lions for a third time and will take up the role full-time next August.
Gatland led the Lions to a series draw in New Zealand two years ago as well as victory against Australia in 2013. He was forwards coach on the last tour of South Africa, in 2009, but his re-appointment means he will complete the set as head coach.
The 55-year-old steps down as Wales coach after this year’s World Cup and while he has expressed an interest in taking an extended break after 11 years with the current Six Nations champions, he will be free to take up consultancy work before beginning with the Lions. “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.
“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.”
Gatland’s appointment – two years before the tour of South Africa – is a coup for the Lions given his standing within world rugby. He was reportedly on a shortlist to become the next France head coach and he has been repeatedly linked with the England job as and when Eddie Jones departs.
It also represents a change of heart from Gatland, who after the series against the All Blacks, appeared to rule himself out of doing the role in the future due to frustrations over the shortened nature of the tour and the treatment he received in the New Zealand press. After that tour he said: “I’m done, I hated the tour. What I’ve learned from my Lions experiences is how difficult it is to put some continuity together in terms of people and staff, and the lack of preparation time. Let someone else do it. Let someone else reinvent the wheel.”
The tour of South Africa will be even more condensed – from 10 matches to eight and over five weeks rather than six – but in beginning the role next August, Gatland has more time to influence preparations and significantly, the chance to appoint his coaching team early.
The British & Irish Lions managing director, Ben Calveley, said: “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. Appointing him two years ahead of time ensures Warren can also be involved in planning the logistics and scheduling elements of the tour.” - Guardian