NEW Zealander Warren Gatland has been named coach of the British and Irish Lions for their tour of Australia next year.
He becomes the second Kiwi to take up the role, following in the footsteps of Graham Henry, who also took the Lions to Australia in 2001.
Gatland, who has coached Wales to two Six Nations grand slams and the semifinals of last year’s Rugby World Cup, has been seconded to the Lions for the next 10 months.
His assistant at Wales, Rob Howley, will take charge of the national side in his absence, although Gatland will return for tests against Australia and New Zealand in the Northern autumn.
“I am really honoured to have been asked to take the position of head coach for the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia,” Gatland said.
“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.
“There is no question it will be one hell of a challenge.
“Playing in the southern hemisphere is one rugby’s hardest challenges.
“The Lions came close in South Africa and our ambition is to win the series in 2013, and I believe we have the players to do that.”
Gatland’s appointment was supposed to be confirmed in April.
However while on holiday in New Zealand following the Six Nation’s success, he fell off a ladder at his Waihi Beach holiday home and fractured both his heels.
Having convinced Lions’ management of his improving health, he was unveiled in London on Tuesday.
He remained committed to the Lions expansive brand of rugby.
“I think we want to continue with some of the great rugby that we demonstrated in South Africa.
“We outscored the South African’s in the try count in the test series so you can expect from us an open, exciting brand of rugby, tempered hopefully with winning rugby.”