WATCH: Warren Gatland handed head coach role for Lions tour to New Zealand

Warren Gatland has been appointed head coach for the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

The 52-year-old Kiwi fills the role for the second time after masterminding a 2-1 series victory over Australia three years ago and will begin a sabbatical from his position as Wales boss immediately.

"Coaching the Lions is a great privilege. The 2013 tour was a real career highlight for me and I'm honoured to be offered the role again," Gatland said.

Gatland will be at the helm for the toughest assignment in the game with a three-Test series against the All Blacks the culmination of a 10-fixture tour that includes five games against Super Rugby opposition and a clash with the Maori.

The Lions have prevailed just once in 11 previous visits to New Zealand - John Dawes' 1971 tourists triumphed 2-1 - and were demolished in their last meeting with the All Blacks in 2005.

Gatland, who was also part of Sir Ian McGeechan's coaching team in South Africa seven years ago, is convinced the tourists can prevail against the odds.

"I know from having been in New Zealand recently how much excitement there is ahead of next year," Gatland said.

"For the All Blacks a Lions series is the ultimate test, but I'm 100 per cent confident that we can go and win in New Zealand."

Gatland will finalise the make-up of his own coaching team before the end of the year.

"The chance to work with the best players from the four Home Nations is a coach's dream and we have some outstanding talent to select from," Gatland said.

"Likewise, there are some outstanding coaches who could potentially be involved and we'll look to announce them in December.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how they and the players get on domestically, in Europe and internationally."

Gatland, who has won two Grand Slams with Wales, departs for New Zealand on Thursday to begin plotting the All Blacks' downfall and will be accompanied by tour manager John Spencer.

"We are delighted to have Warren as head coach for a second Tour," Spencer said.

"His international track record speaks for itself and he also understands the essence of the Lions and how to unite four nations in one purpose.

"Warren is acutely aware of the challenges we will face in New Zealand and we're confident he's the right man to lead us to a series victory."

Speaking at his official Lions unveiling in Edinburgh, Gatland said: "You get offered probably the biggest job in world rugby against the best opposition in world rugby, you get that sort of challenge and it is very difficult to walk away from that.

"When I was offered the position, it was definitely a 'yes' straightaway.

"It's massive. Having played against the Lions, I know what it means to face the Lions and have that opportunity. To go to New Zealand and lead the team against back-to-back world champions, consistently the best team in the world, in their back yard is no bigger challenge.

"I am hugely forward looking to the challenge and the prospect ahead.

"You have got to go there with that belief that we can put a squad together, a coaching team and management team that are capable of going down there and being successful in New Zealand.

"To challenge yourself against the best, there is no bigger challenge, and I think everyone is hugely excited about the next 10 months, really.

"You want people with confidence in their ability and confidence to play in what is going to be an incredibly tough environment.

"One of the challenges for me as the coach is often you are picking players who are used to being number one in their own position at their club and for the their nation, and sometimes you come together in a Lions set-up, and you could be number two or three.

"You are looking for people who are positive characters who can handle disappointment, sometimes, and be part of the squad. The make-up of the personnel is going to be incredibly important, and we will be looking closely at making sure we pick the right people."

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