Gatland named Lions head coach for 2021 tour

Warren Gatland has agreed to become head coach of the British and Irish Lions for the tour to South Africa in 2021

Gatland could make history by becoming the first Lions coach to lead tours of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa without suffering a series defeat.

The appointment is set to be confirmed at a press conference in London.

"I'll focus 100% on the Lions for those 12 months and then hopefully have an opportunity to go back to New Zealand and pick up something and then take it from there".

Previously he has taken a sabbatical from his Wales duties to dedicate himself to the Lions but now he would be free from any distractions from when the World Cup ends on 2 November.

Come 2021, Gatland would have been away from Wales for nearly two years as he moves on after the World Cup this year.

Should he achieve that feat, Gatland will be the first Lions coach to claim three unbeaten tours over the southern nations.

Speaking to the Lions website, Gatland said he is "honoured" to take on the role once again.

"The challenge for me as a head coach is to go undefeated in Test series".

The Lions' last series victory against the Springboks came in 1997, also under McGeechan, when the host nation were world champions.

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It will be an eight-match tour, three of them being tests.

"And to think about the possibility of leading the Lions in South Africa, I know it's going to be tough, a real rugby hotbed in terms of going over there, and the Lions in the past have always found it quite hard, how physical and passionate they are".

"But one thing of reflecting back was the hospitality we had and the atmosphere of the games was incredible".

Warren Gatland has emphatically dismissed replacing Eddie Jones as England coach as he plans to return home and work in New Zealand after leading the British and Irish Lions to South Africa in 2021. "Alun Wyn Jones comes to mind at the moment, Owen Farrell too".

"I've been extremely privileged to have the honour of being involved with the Lions, this will be my fourth tour, and I'm so thankful to have been given the opportunity".

"They are the sort of players you would talk about".

"Then potentially you could go into extra time". If I was able to achieve that, and the squad were able to achieve that, it would be something pretty special.

Tens of thousands of fans are likely to travel to South Africa as Lions tours have developed into a huge pilgrimage over the last 20 years or so, red-clad fans usually outnumbering home fans.

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