Warren Gatland confirmed as Lions coach for tour of Australia

 

Warren Gatland is prepared for "one hell of a challenge" after being confirmed as the British and Irish Lions' head coach for the 2013 tour of Australia.

Gatland was the outstanding candidate for the post after leading Wales to the semi-finals of the 2011 Rugby World Cup and last season's Grand Slam triumph.

The Lions will tackle Australia in a three-Test series as part of a 10-match tour, which opens with a fixture against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1.

"There is no question it will be one hell of a challenge," Gatland said.

"Playing in the southern hemisphere is one of rugby's hardest challenges. The Lions came close in South Africa (in 2009) and our ambition is to win the series in 2013 - and I believe we have the players to do that."

Gatland, 48, will coach Wales in their autumn Tests against New Zealand and Australia but otherwise he will be seconded full-time to the Lions.

Gatland is expected to confirm his full coaching team in October and it would be a surprise if the likes of Graham Rowntree and Shaun Edwards are not involved.

All three were part of the 2009 Lions management in South Africa and received the backing of head coach Ian McGeechan to carry the torch to Australia.

"I am really honoured to have been asked to take the position of head coach," Gatland added.

"I really enjoyed the experience as one of the assistant coaches in 2009 and since then have harboured the ambition to lead the tour to Australia next year.

"Over the coming months I will give careful consideration to the make-up of my coaching staff and of course the playing squad itself.

"A Lions tour is unique, it is the ultimate career pinnacle for coaches and players. I want to ensure that we get the tour environment right so that we are hugely competitive and that our fans are proud of the team."

The Lions had initially planned to hold the announcement in April but were forced into a delay after Gatland broke both his heels in a fall at his house in Waikato.

"It has been no secret that after the initial selection process, Warren was our preferred candidate," tour manager Andy Irvine.

"We naturally had to ensure he was fit to take up the post. Those concerns have now been addressed.

"Warren has an outstanding coaching record and he has been fully embedded in rugby in the UK and Ireland since 1989."

Gatland coached Ireland for three years between 1998 and 2001 before taking charge at Wasps, where he won a hat-trick of Premiership titles and the Heineken Cup.

In 2006, he moved back to New Zealand and coached his native Waikato to the New Zealand provincial title before Wales came calling.

Gatland took charge of a Wales side that had just crashed out of the pool stages of the World Cup and he made an immediate impact, guiding them to the first of two Grand Slam titles during his tenure.

The second was this year and it followed hot on the heels of Wales' greatest World Cup performance since 1987, when they came agonisingly close to beating France to earn a place in the final.

Gatland will become the second New Zealander to lead the Lions on tour to Australia, after Graham Henry's failed attempt to beat the Wallabies in 2001.

Rob Howley led Wales on their summer tour of Australia in Gatland's injury-enforced absence and will continue in that role through the 2013 RBS 6 Nations.

Next year's tour to Australia will mark the 125th anniversary of Lions tours.

"It's a massive responsibility," Gatland said.

"It's a responsibility to the players and coaches that have gone before me and to 125 years of Lions history.

"In 2009 it was a case of coming in and keeping my head down and quickly learning what the Lions meant to the players and the management involved.

"For a player it is the pinnacle of their career. It is the same for the coaches involved.

"This is the highest honour, to be selected as the Lions coach.

"It is the pinnacle of anyone's coaching career. To be given this opportunity is a huge privilege.

"I have coached in Ireland, in London with Wasps and with Wales.

"That gives me an understanding of the different cultures and it will be important bringing the four countries together."

Gatland played against the Lions for Waikato in 1993.

"As a player who played against the Lions I remember that fondly. Being on the other side is just as important," he said.

"We were bouncing off the walls. We were playing against the traditions of the British and Irish Lions."

Gatland's first task will be to travel to France tomorrow to meet with potential Lions and Top 14 coaches to discuss player release.

The French club final is on June 1, the same day as the Lions' tour opener against the Barbarians in Hong Kong.

"I am going to France tomorrow. I will talk to players down there," Gatland said.

"I will watch Perpignan and Bayonne over the weekend. It is a chance to meet with coaches and talk to players and talk about potential release for the Lions players.

"Ultimately it may be up to the players.

"In 2009, Nathan Hines left Perpignan before a final because the Lions meant so much to him as a player.

"He said 'bugger playing in a French club final I want to be part of a Lions tour'.

"As a management board and coaching staff we will have to discuss that because preparation is so tight.

"If it means players aren't available to get on the plane, it may rule them out."

Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips plays for Bayonne while James Hook, another 2009 Lions tourist, moved to Perpignan at the start of this season.

PA

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?