"I jumped at the chance to be involved again," Gatland said at his presentation in central London on Wednesday. Gatland previously had said he "wouldn't subject myself" to leading the Lions again because he "hated" aspects of the 2017 tour of New Zealand, when his team drew the series 1-1.
That came after Gatland led the Lions — a team made up of players from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland — to a series win against Australia in 2013. Ian McGeechan is the only other coach to lead the Lions on three tours. Gatland was forwards coach under McGeechan for the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa, which won the test series 2-1.
Speaking about his latest appointment, which was widely expected, Gatland said he had "unfinished business" against the Springboks. "We spoke about the potential," Gatland said, "and I couldn't turn my back on the challenge."
Gatland was asked if this would be his last tour as Lions head coach. "I think so, yeah," he said. "I will have done a full round of tours. The challenge for me as a head coach is to go undefeated in test series. That would be something pretty special if I could achieve that."
Gatland will relinquish his role as Wales head coach after this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan, ending 12 years in charge of the team. His services will be in demand because he is regarded as one of the best rugby coaches in the world, but he said Wednesday he hasn't made a formal decision about his initial post-World Cup plans.
Gatland had been touted as a replacement for Eddie Jones, whose contract with England expires in 2021. "I can categorically tell you now I will definitely not be coaching England," Gatland told British radio station TalkSport.
Lions managing director Ben Calveley described Gatland as a "world-class coach" with a "proven track record" who "knows the Lions better than anyone else currently coaching in world rugby." "This was a unanimous decision from the Lions board and it was important that we moved swiftly and proactively to secure Warren's signature," Calveley said. "Appointing him two years ahead of time ensures Warren can also be involved in planning the logistics and scheduling elements of the tour."
It will be an eight-match tour, three of them being tests. There were 10 matches in what proved to be a grueling 2017 tour of New Zealand. "History tells you it's a tough place to tour," Gatland said, "but I am 100% confident that we can go there and win. I would not be here if I thought differently."
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80