Published: Fri, June 14, 2019
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Lions then eye to Super Rugby for Gatland

Lions then eye to Super Rugby for Gatland

Gatland will start as head coach on 1 August 2020 and he will work with the Lions until the end of the 2021 tour in South Africa.

Gatland will make history in joining McGeechan, who coached and played for the Lions, as the only coaches to have taken charge of the Lions on three consecutive tours after the Scot did so in 1989, 1993 and 1997.

Gatland said after the last Lions tour that he was frustrated by limited time given to prepare the team and by the shortened nature of the tour.

"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".

Given the compressed nature of the South African tour - featuring two less games than in New Zealand - Gatland is expected to largely opt for continuity with his assistant coaches, though Andy Farrell's presence as defence coach may be doubtful due to his imminent promotion to lead Ireland after the World Cup.

Gatland's appointment - two years before the tour of South Africa - is a coup for the Lions given his standing within world rugby. "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 will coach the Lions for a record third successive time after leading the team to victory in Australia 2013 and earning a historic draw against New Zealand in 2017.

"I love the Lions as a concept".

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Gatland said he wanted to avoid the approach taken by Clive Woodward for the 2005 tour of New Zealand, when the former England coach effectively split the squad into test and midweek teams.

"I don't think at that moment that's being discussed".

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

Although Gatland has done nothing in the past four years to lose his post with the Lions, former Ireland global and 2009 Lion Luke Fitzgerald highlighted on Twitter that the idea of the tour is to have variety.

After securing his third Grand Slam this year with Wales, and with other contenders such as Joe Schmidt and Eddie Jones distancing themselves from the role, it was Gatland's for the taking.

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

"I spoke to my family and thought this is something I couldn't turn my back on".

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. "Appointing him two years ahead of time ensures Warren can also be involved in planning the logistics and scheduling elements of the tour".

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