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Published: 09:58 | 7/9/16

Gatland named Lions head coach

New Zealander to take sabbatical from Wales

Warren Gatland has been confirmed as the head coach for the 2017 British and Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand.

Gatland masterminded the 2-1 series victory over Australia three years ago and his reappointment was confirmed at a press conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

"It's a huge honour and when you get offered probably the biggest job in world rugby against the best opposition in world rugby, it's very difficult to walk away from it," Gatland told a news conference.

"When I was offered the position it was definitely a "yes" straight away.

"It's massive, having experienced playing against the Lions I know what it means to face the Lions, so to go to New Zealand and lead the team against back-to-back world champions in their own back yard, there's no bigger challenge.

"We've got to go there and believe we can put together a team that can be successful."

In 2013 Gatland handed over responsibility of Wales to assistant head coach Rob Howley and once again the 52-year-old will take a sabbatical in order to concentrate fully on preparing for the tour to New Zealand.

The ten-match series will be challenging for the tourists with the Blues, Highlanders and Crusaders set to have their All Blacks available for selection.

In total there will be five fixtures against Super Rugby sides - the Lions will also face the Chiefs and Hurricanes - as well as games against a provincial union team and the New Zealand Maori. The tour will culminate in a three-Test series against the world champions.

Gatland, who will fly to New Zealand on Thursday to look at potential hotels and training venues, picked his 2013 squad based on form after that year's Six Nations and he is keen to bring players that can handle the pressure that comes with being a Lions squad member.

"The planning has started already," he explained. "I'm incredibly excited and I wouldn't be here if I didn't think they had a chance to go to New Zealand and win.

"We've got some talented players with some experience as well. The players are very well aware of how important the next few months are.

"They'll be desperate to get on that plane and go on a tour which is a massive challenge, but could be something very, very special.

"You want confident players to go down there and play in an incredibly tough environment.

"One of the challenges is putting together a team of people. There will be players who are used to being number one at their clubs and country, but now they might be number two or three.

"You want good, positive people, in terms of how they handle disappointment. The make-up of the personalities is very important."

Gatland will be coaching the Lions on a third successive tour, having been an Assistant Coach in South Africa in 2009, and he will announce his backroom staff in December.

Howley, meanwhile, has been named as Wales head coach for the autumn internationals and the 2017 RBS Six Nations.

Gatland's long-time assistant will take 'full responsibility' for the senior team with immediate effect .

"I am delighted, proud and extremely excited to be named Wales head coach for this period," Howley said.

"I would like to congratulate Warren on his thoroughly deserved selection and the honour of being named head coach for a second successive Lions tour.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being head coach in 2012 and 2013. I am excited to have the challenge once again, and I would like to thank the WRU for this opportunity.

"We kick off four back-to-back matches in Cardiff, with Australia first up on November 5. Not only is the Under Armour series important for us on the field, the 2019 Rugby World Cup seedings will be decided upon post 2017 Six Nations so each match is vitally important to us looking ahead to that competition.

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