4th Sep 2012 4:15pm | By Rugby writer
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.
The New 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 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.
"The 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."
Tour 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.
"His 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".
The 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 22
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