Warren Gatland has been named British and Irish Lions head coach for the 2021 tour of South Africa.

The New Zealander will lead the composite side made up of the best rugby players from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for the third time, becoming only the second coach to do so after Ian McGeechan.

Gatland, who will leave his position as Wales boss after this year's World Cup, oversaw the Lions' tied series against New Zealand in 2017 and a victory against Australia in 2013.

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"I'm hugely honored and delighted to lead the Lions again," said Gatland.

"It is exciting and a great challenge to coach the best players from the four home nations. The Lions rightly have a truly special place in the game and I jumped at the chance to be involved again when I was approached about the role.

"South Africa is a special place to play rugby. They have some of the most iconic stadiums in the world which will be packed full of passionate fans, and the Springboks have shown in recent times that they are back to being one of the dominant forces in the game."

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'Unique challenges'

Gatland served as a forwards coach during the tour to South Africa in 2009, which the Lions lost 2-1.

"I know the scale of the task ahead of us," the 55-year-old continued. "Playing in South Africa presents a number of unique challenges such as playing at altitude, while the Boks will always be physical, aggressive and highly motivated.

"History tells you it's a tough place to tour, but I am 100 percent confident that we can go there and win -- I would not be here if I thought differently."

Gatland will begin his fulltime role as Lions coach in August 2020. He has recently guided Wales to a record run of 14 consecutive victories, in the process winning a third Six Nations grand slam, but has announced he will step down after this year's World Cup.

He is Wales' longest-serving coach having taken charge in December 2007.