The 48-year-old, who becomes the second New Zealand coach to take up the role, will look to mastermind the Lions’ first series win since 1997.
“I am really honoured to have been asked to take the position of head coach,” Gatland said.
“There is no question it will be one hell of a challenge; playing in the southern hemisphere is one of rugby’s hardest challenges.
“The Lions came close in South Africa [in 2009] and our ambition is to win the series in 2013 – and I believe we have the players to do that.”
The Wales boss was part of Ian McGeechan’s coaching set-up for the 2009 tour of South Africa which ended in a 2-1 series defeat by the Springboks.
Gatland is relishing his chance to lead his squad for three Tests against Australia and seven tour matches, describing the opportunity to take charge of the Lions as the pinnacle of his coaching career.
“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,” Gatland added.
“Over the coming months I will give careful consideration to the make-up of my coaching staff and of course the playing squad itself.
“A Lions tour is unique, it is the ultimate career pinnacle for coaches and players. I want to ensure that we get the tour environment right so that we are hugely competitive and that our fans are proud of the team.”
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