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.
The long-time Wales coach returns for his third tour with the team, having taken them to his home country in 2013 and Australia four years later.
Under his watch, the Lions are still unbeaten in Tests after the drawn series against the All Blacks and, more recently, a 2-1 victory over the Wallabies.
After months long speculation, with several big names also tipped for the job, Gatland emerged as the preferred candidate, and was confirmed as the man who will lead the team to another three-match series against the Springboks, which will be preceded by tour matches against the local unions.
Gatland ready to take the Lions on safari
Gatland said he was honoured to be brought back as Lions coach.
“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.
“South Africa is a special place to play rugby. They have some of the most iconic stadiums in the world which will be packed full of passionate fans, and the Springboks have shown in recent times that they are back to being one of the dominant forces in the game.
“Having toured there in 2009 I know the scale of the task ahead of us – playing in South Africa presents a number of unique challenges such as playing at altitude, while the Boks will always be physical, aggressive and highly motivated.”
Gatland becomes only the second person to lead a third tour after Sir Ian McGeechan, who was at the helm when the Lions last toured South Africa in 2009, losing the Test series 2-1.
He begins his stint at the helm on 1 August 2020, in preparation of the tour which begins towards the middle of the following year.