London - Warren Gatland said he was ready for
a "hell of a challenge" after being appointed head coach of the British
and Irish Lions for next year's tour of Australia.
Zealander, currently coach of Wales,, will be looking to lead the Lions
- a combined side made up of players from England, Scotland, Wales and
Ireland - to their first Test series win in 16 years following their
1997 success in South Africa.
"There is no question it is one hell
of a challenge," Gatland, who has led Wales to two Six Nations Grand
Slams and the semi-finals of last year's Rugby World Cup, told a news
conference in London on Tuesday. "Playing in the southern hemisphere is
one of rugby's hardest challenges.
Gatland, an assistant coach
when the Lions lost in South Africa in 2009, added: "I really enjoyed
the experience as one of the assistant coaches in 2009 and since then
have harboured ambitions to lead the tour to Australia next year.
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."
manager Andy Irvine, the former Scotland and Lions fullback, said of
Gatland's appointment: "Warren has an outstanding record as a coach and
has been fully embedded in rugby in the UK and Ireland since 1989.
achievements include steering Wasps to English and European club
success and more recently he has overseen Wales to two Grand Slams and a
semi-final at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
"He has an intimate
knowledge of the Lions, the challenges they face and the processes that
need to be put in place to ensure the squad had every chance of being
successful," Irvine added.
Gatland will be the second overseas
coach of the Lions following fellow Kiwi Graham Henry, in charge during
the 2-1 series defeat in Australia in 2001.
The Welsh Rugby Union
(WRU) confirmed Gatland would be released from Wales duty to concentrate
on the Lions "for a substantial portion of the rugby year".
Lions' tour begins against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1 before
they play the first of three Tests against Australia in Brisbane on June
British and Irish Lions 2013 tour of Australia itinerary:
June 1: Lions v Barbarians, Hong Kong
June 5: Lions v Western Force, Perth
June 8: Lions v Queensland Reds, Brisbane
June 11: Lions v New South Wales/Queensland Country invitational, Newcastle
June 15: Lions v NSW Waratahs, Sydney
June 18: Lions v ACT Brumbies, Canberra
June 22: Lions v Australia, Brisbane
June 25: Lions v Melbourne Rebels, Melbourne
June 29: Lions v Australia, Melbourne
July 6: Lions v Australia, Sydney