Wales head coach Warren Gatland has officially been announced as head coach for the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.
Gatland was an assistant coach in 2009 on the tour of South Africa and then head coach on the victorious 2013 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia.
New Zealander Gatland’s appointment is the first time that a British and Irish Lions head coach will lead the team against his country of birth.
Graham Henry led the Lions in 2001 in Australia but he is from New Zealand. The Lions last toured New Zealand in 2005 under Clive Woodward and were beaten 3-0 in the Tests.
The Lions will play three Tests against the All Blacks as well as all five New Zealand teams. The tour starts against a Provincial XV team on the 3rd of June.
The 2017 Super Rugby draw has yet to be finalised but a draft draw has been circulated and it is similar to the 2013 draw in that it has weeks with Australian and South African teams playing without the New Zealand teams to accommodate their commitments to the Lions.
The Welsh Head Coach will start immediately and work exclusively with the Lions until the end of next year’s Tour.
Gatland said: “Coaching the British & Irish Lions is a great privilege. The 2013 Tour was a real career highlight for me and I am honoured to be offered the role again. The chance to work with the best players from the four Home Nations is a coach’s dream and we have some outstanding talent to select from.
“Likewise, there are some outstanding coaches who could potentially be involved and we’ll look to announce them in December. I’m looking forward to seeing how they and the players get on domestically, in Europe and internationally.
“I know from having been in New Zealand recently how much excitement there is ahead of next year. For the All Blacks a Lions series is the ultimate test but I am 100 per cent confident that we can go and win in New Zealand.”
Gatland will announce his coaching assistants on December 7th and will travel to New Zealand this week to start with his planning for the tour next year.
2017 British and Irish Lions tour fixtures:
3 June – Provincial XV team (Toll Stadium, Whangarei)
7 June – Blues (Eden Park, Auckland)
10 June – Crusaders (AMI Stadium, Christchurch)
13 June – Highlanders (Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin)
17 June – Maori (International Stadium, Rotorua)
20 June – Chiefs (Waikato Stadium, Hamilton)
24 June – New Zealand (First Test, Eden Park, Auckland)
27 June – Hurricanes (Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
1 July – New Zealand (Second Test, Westpac Stadium, Wellington)
8 July – New Zealand (Third Test, Eden Park, Auckland).