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Gatland to lead Lions for third time in South Africa

Omnisport logo Omnisport 12/06/2019 Peter Thompson
Warren Gatland wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland © Getty Images British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland has been confirmed as head coach of the British and Irish Lions for the 2021 tour of South Africa.

The departing Wales boss had previously ruled out a third successive stint with the Lions, stating he "hated the press and negativity" he experienced on the tour of New Zealand two years ago.

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Yet after masterminding a 1-1 draw with the All Blacks in his homeland, the 55-year-old will lead the Lions in a series against the Springboks - eight years after he was first in charge for a 2-1 triumph in Australia.

Gatland will end his long tenure with Six Nations champions Wales after the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year and starts his Lions role on August 1, 2020.

"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.

"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.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 12: Warren Gatland, the newly appointed British and Irish Lions Head Coach speaks to media during the British and Irish Lions Head Coach Announcement at London Syon Park Hotel on June 12, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) © Getty Images LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 12: Warren Gatland, the newly appointed British and Irish Lions Head Coach speaks to media during the British and Irish Lions Head Coach Announcement at London Syon Park Hotel on June 12, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

"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.

"History tells you it's a tough place to tour, but I am 100 per cent confident that we can go there and win – I would not be here if I thought differently.

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

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