Warren Gatland: Departing Wales boss to coach Chiefs before 2021 Lions

Warren Gatland will coach the Lions for a record-equalling third time in 2021
Warren Gatland will coach the Lions for a record-equalling third time in 2021

Warren Gatland will take over the Chiefs in his native New Zealand when his contract as Wales coach ends after the World Cup this autumn.

The 55-year-old is set to replace Colin Cooper who is stepping down.

He will coach the Chiefs in 2020, be released to take charge of the 2021 British & Irish Lions, and then is expected to return to Hamilton for two more seasons.

"I am really excited about the opportunity to come back home," he said.

"The opportunity to come back as head coach of the Chiefs is something that I am really looking forward to.

"The Chiefs are well known for the success they've had both on and off the field and the really loyal support they have from everyone within the Chiefs region.

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland during his time as Waikato head coach between 2005 and 2007

Gatland had told BBC Sport earlier in June he wanted to coach a Super Rugby side.

"I would love to be involved with Super Rugby and to challenge myself with that," Gatland had said after being confirmed as Lions coach for the 2021 tour to South Africa.

"I want to go back. I have been head coach with Waikato and won a championship there, and I want to challenge myself with Super Rugby."

Gatland has been coaching in the northern hemisphere for close to three decades, holding roles with Connacht, Ireland, Wasps, Wales and the Lions.

In more than a decade with Wales, Gatland has won three Grand Slams, a further Six Nations championship and reached the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup.

The former Waikato hooker coached the Lions to a series win over Australia in 2013, a drawn series in New Zealand four years later and his stint next year will equal Sir Ian McGeechan's record as a three-time head coach.

Analysis

Chris Jones, BBC rugby union correspondent

The Lions hierarchy are believed to be supportive of Gatland's move, and feel he will be able to sharpen his coaching skills as well as gathering first-hand information on South African opposition.

Returning to the New Zealand system could also put Gatland firmly in the frame to eventually take charge of the All Blacks.

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