Gatland braced for 'hardest challenge' after being confirmed as Lions boss for Aussie tour
10:46 GMT, 4 September 2012
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.
Aussie rules: Wales coach Gatland will lead the British and Irish Lions on their tour of Oz
'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.
Into battle: Tour manager Andy Irvine with Lions head coach Gatland at the announcement
Lions Tour Fixtures 2013
Barbarians – June 1, Hong Kong
Western Force – June 5, Perth
Queensland Reds – June 8, Brisbane
Comb NSW-Queensland Country – June 12, Newcastle
NSW Waratahs – June 15, Sydney
ACT Brumbies – June 18, Canberra
Australia – June 22, Brisbane
Melbourne Rebels – June 25, Melbourne Jun
Australia – June 29, Melbourne
Australia – July 6, Sydney
'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.
Revenge: The Lions – under Sir Graham Henry and Martin Johnson – lost the 2001 series 2-1
Warren Gatland- factfile
1963: Born September 17 in Waikato, New Zealand
1986: Made his debut for Waikato in the New Zealand provincial championship as a hooker, having switched from a number eight at the age of 21.
1988: Helped Waikato beat the touring Wales team and won his first All Blacks call-up, for the tour to Australia in 1988 and became a regular in the squad.
1994: Retired from playing having made a record number of appearances for Waikato (140) and 17 for the All Blacks, although he never won a Test cap, with his path blocked by Shaun Fitzpatrick.
1996: Coached Connacht for two seasons.
1998: Appointed Ireland head coach.
2001: Appointed Wasps director of rugby and kept the club in the Premiership.
2003: Wasps won Premiership title and Parker Pen European Shield.
2004: Wasps won Premiership title and the Heineken Cup.
2005: Wasps won Premiership title.
2006: Coached Waikato to the New Zealand provincial championship.
2007: Appointed Wales head coach, replacing Gareth Jenkins after Wales had crashed out in the pool stages of the World Cup.
2008: Coached Wales to the Six Nations, including their first win against England at Twickenham for 20 years.
2009: Appointed British and Irish Lions forwards coach for the tour of South Africa. The Lions were beaten 2-1.
2010: Signed a new four-year contract with the Welsh Rugby Union that included a sabbatical to cover the summer of 2013.
2011: Coached Wales to the semi-finals of the World Cup, their best performance since the inaugural tournament in 1987.
2012: Wales won their second Grand Slam in Gatland's tenure.
September 4 – Confirmed as British and Irish Lions head coach for 2013 tour of Australia.