Wales coach Warren Gatland has been appointed to lead the British & Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa in 2021 after winning a third Grand Slam with Wales earlier this year.
The New Zealander led Wales to a clean sweep in the Guinness Six Nations in his final Championship at the helm.
During his time with Wales, he has also toured with the Lions on three occasions, first as an assistant coach in South Africa in 2009, and then as head coach to Australia and New Zealand in 2013 and 2017 respectively.
In 2021 he will return to take on the Springboks, becoming the second person after Sir Ian McGeechan to lead the Lions against the Wallabies, All Blacks and Springboks.
And Gatland admits that a huge challenge awaits his team in two years’ time.
He said: “I love the Lions as a concept. There were parts of the New Zealand tour that were incredibly challenging.
“Any Lions tour for players and the coaches involved, it’s probably the hardest thing you will ever do. As a coach in terms of the planning and preparation and scrutiny of the press it’s always something that is at the forefront of a Lions tour.
“I couldn’t turn my back on this challenge. Thinking about the possibility of leading the Lions in South Africa, I know it’s going to be tough, it’s a real rugby hotbed over there and the Lions in the past have always found it quite difficult with the history of how physical and passionate they are, but I spoke to my family and it was something I couldn’t turn my back on.”
Gatland will finish his contract with Wales after the Rugby World Cup, having enjoyed a hugely successful 12-year spell in charge.
That included a Grand Slam in his first full season in charge, back in 2008, followed by another in 2012 and a Championship title in 2013.
And he signed off from the Guinness Six Nations in perfect fashion this year, clinching the Slam in Cardiff with a 25-7 success over Ireland in March.