The Welsh Rugby Union is delighted to support the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia in 2013 by agreeing to release Warren Gatland to become Head Coach of the Squad.
Wales Assistant Coach Rob Howley will continue in his role as Caretaker Coach of Wales taking full responsibility for the senior team with immediate effect.
As confirmed by the British & Irish Lions today (September 4) Warren Gatland has been seconded from September 1, 2012, to focus on the role until the conclusion of the tour.
Gatland will temporarily revert to his Wales Head Coach role from November 18 and will take charge of Wales for the Dove Series autumn Test matches against New Zealand on November 24 and Australia on December 1 before returning to Lions duty.
Howley first took up his Caretaker Wales Coach role before the June 2012 international against the Barbarians in Cardiff and the three Test tour of Australia in June 2012 covering for Gatland’s injury absence.
Howley will now be in charge of Wales as Caretaker Head Coach for the first two Autumn Series games against Samoa and Argentina and for the entire RBS 6 Nations Tournament in 2013.
The WRU seeks to emphasise that it will consider any further requests for secondments of other coaching and backroom staff in the Lions squad which are likely to be made as the season progresses.
Warren Gatland also played a key role for the British & Irish Lions in 2009 when he and six other coaches and backroom staff were released by the WRU on secondment for the tour of South Africa.
WRU Group Chief Executive, Roger Lewis, said: “The Welsh Rugby Union is proud to support the British & Irish Lions and recognises the importance of contributing our playing and coaching talent to the cause.
“We have a proud history of helping the Lions through the secondment of key staff and this will continue to be our stance whenever possible.
“Warren Gatland has proved his credentials by coaching Wales to Grand Slam victories in two tournaments and I am certain he will now give his all to the Lions as Head Coach.
“It is a great reflection on his ability and a true recognition of the strength of Welsh rugby in this modern era.
“He will be released from Wales duty for a substantial portion of the rugby year ahead, but it is testimony to the backroom team he has helped put in place and nurture that we can agree to his secondment.
“Wales now operates to a tried and tested formula and in preparation and delivery on the field of play and the coaches and players know exactly what is expected of them.
“We are also extremely proud to have an individual of Rob Howley’s ability in place to pick up the baton and coach Wales in Warren’s absence.
“Rob will be in charge for two important Autumn internationals and for the first time will take control of an entire RBS 6 Nations tournament.
“This is a great opportunity for him and the rest of the backroom team to develop their individual and collective skills. After the Lions tour we will benefit from having a vastly more experienced coaching team in place as we look forward in earnest to the next Rugby World Cup in 2015.
“Rob has already proved his ability as a coach I am certain he will continue to develop his range of expertise and management capabilities in this extended period in charge.
“The Australia tour this summer proved to be an important learning curve for him and now he has the opportunity to gain even more experience as the Number One coach.”
Warren Gatland: “I am really honoured to have been asked to take the position of head coach for the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia. I really enjoyed the experience as one of the assistant coaches in 2009 and since then have harboured the ambition to lead the tour to Australia next year.
“I am extremely grateful to the Welsh Rugby Union for agreeing to my extended release which will take me away from Wales squad duty for a substantial portion of the season ahead.
“This has only been possible because of the great coaching and backroom team I now have assisting me at the WRU National Centre of Excellence looking after the interests of the Welsh players and our preparation and succession planning.
“I am also very grateful to the Lions management for agreeing to release me temporarily back to Wales duty so that I can have the honour of taking my Welsh team into international encounters against both New Zealand and Australia this autumn.”
Rob Howley said: “It is an honour and a privilege to have been asked to continue as Head Coach of Wales in my caretaker role for this extended period.
“I am also delighted for Warren who thoroughly deserves to have been selected to coach the British and Irish Lions on their 2013 tour.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of heading up the coaching team over the summer and now I am looking forward to building on that during the months ahead.
“Work is already well advanced in preparation for the Autumn and I know we have some great games to look forward to against some of the toughest opposition in the world game.
“I want to thank the Welsh Rugby Union for offering me this opportunity and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”