Gatland to get Lions nod for daunting challenge in New Zealand
Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30
WARREN GATLAND will today be handed one of the toughest challenges in rugby history when he is formally appointed as the 2017 Lions coach.
Next year's tour of New Zealand will be the Kiwi's third successive trip with the famous institution, but it is undoubtedly the most daunting he has faced as his side take on the back-to-back world champions in their own back yard.
Gatland served as assistant to Ian McGeechan in South Africa in 2009, before taking over as head coach and guiding the Lions to victory over Australia in 2013 despite controversially dropping Brian O'Driscoll for the final Test, but the All Blacks represent a significant step up in class.
Despite Joe Schmidt's success with Ireland and Eddie Jones' emergence in the last year with England, the Wales coach was always considered the strong favourite to return to the role after ending a run of three tours without a win.
Gatland is expected to take a sabbatical from his day job for the rest of the season as he becomes the highest paid Lions coach in history.
He faces a myriad of challenges ahead of the 10-match tour that begins on July 3 and concludes with the final Test on July 8.
His players will be at the end of a long and punishing season, while New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has committed to releasing his big name players for the early games between the Lions and the Super Rugby franchises.
After being formally unveiled in Edinburgh this afternoon, Gatland's next task will be to finalise his coaching team.
Although the Lions did have an interest in pairing him with Schmidt, the Ireland coach will not be involved but his assistants Andy Farrell and Greg Feek are in contention.
Ireland's players will have an extra opportunity to state their case for selection when they take on New Zealand twice later on this year during the November window.