Warren Gatland named coach of Chiefs on four-year deal

Warren Gatland will take over as Chiefs coach after the World Cup, though he will still lead the British & Irish Lions to South Africa in 2021 Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images

Warren Gatland has signed a four-year deal to coach the Chiefs in Super Rugby.

Various New Zealand media outlets reported on Friday that 55-year-old Kiwi Gatland would take charge of the Chiefs from next year through to 2023, and it was made official a short while later.

Gatland will be coach for three of those four seasons, skipping the 2021 campaign because of his head coaching commitments with the British & Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa.

"I am really excited about the opportunity to come back home. The opportunity to come back as head coach of the Chiefs is something that I am really looking forward to," Gatland said in a statement.

"The Chiefs are well known for the success they've had both on and off the field and the really loyal support they have from everyone within the Chiefs region.

"I am excited to come back and be a part of the Chiefs community with the players, the fans, the sponsors, it's something I really look forward to."

The news comes a day after an unexpected announcement that Colin Cooper was standing down two years into a three-year contract.

Chiefs chief executive Michael Collins said Cooper's departure was a mutual decision between the two parties after he had sought an early release. The move opened a space for Gatland, who will end his long tenure as Welsh coach after this year's World Cup.

After being anointed Lions coach for a third tour, Gatland this month stated he would like to coach at Super Rugby level again.

He was the Chiefs technical advisor in 2006-07 before becoming Wales coach and leading them to three Six Nations crowns.

Born and raised in Hamilton, Gatland has a long association with the Chiefs' provincial base union of Waikato, who he represented as a player for nine years and later coached for three seasons.

The move has been lauded by both New Zealand Rugby and the Chiefs, Collins describing Gatland as a "a world-class coach who boasts a proven track record. With a sound rugby background and his desire to return home to New Zealand and be involved in Super Rugby naturally made him a top choice for the role.

"Like Warren we are excited for his return to the Chiefs Rugby environment. He will continue to build on the work Colin Cooper and his team management have achieved in maintaining a sustainable high-performance environment for the club."

Linking with a Kiwi Super Rugby team would push Gatland to the forefront of future All Blacks coaching contenders.

The last two New Zealand head coaches - Graham Henry and Steve Hansen - were both Welsh national coaches before returning home to take charge of the All Blacks.