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Wales place Rob Howley in charge during Warren Gatland's Lions absence

Published 07/09/2016

Rob Howley will be Wales head coach this season
Rob Howley will be Wales head coach this season

Welsh Rugby Union boss Martyn Phillips has revealed that "a range of options" were considered during contingency planning for Warren Gatland's appointment as British and Irish Lions head coach.

With Gatland now seconded from his Wales coaching role for the next 10 months on Lions duty, Rob Howley will take the reins.

Wales face autumn Tests against Australia, Argentina, Japan and South Africa, plus the 2017 RBS Six Nations tournament, during Gatland's absence.

Howley's appointment to head coach responsibility is a reprise of the 2012-13 season when Gatland headed up the Lions tour of Australia. Under Howley, Wales lost all of their autumn games that campaign, but recovered impressively to win the Six Nations title.

Howley, a long-term Wales assistant coach under Gatland, will commence the role and have what the WRU announced as "full responsibility" for the senior team with immediate effect.

"We are delighted to appoint Rob as head coach of Wales for the period that Warren is away," WRU group chief executive Phillips said.

"Rob is a very experienced international coach and forms part of one of the most experienced coaching teams in the international game.

"Added to this, we have a very experienced squad of players, with a strong leadership group, and we believe that combination gives us a strong basis on which to perform for the season ahead.

"We considered a range of options, domestically and overseas, when contingency planning for this eventuality, and determined that Rob represents the optimum appointment for Wales."

Gatland was officially unveiled as Lions supremo on Wednesday ahead of next summer's 10-game New Zealand tour, and he heads to New Zealand on Thursday for a a look at training venues and hotels, in addition to watching the All Blacks tackle Rugby Championship opponents Argentina and South Africa.

Wales, meanwhile, kick off their autumn campaign against Australia in Cardiff on November 5, and Howley said: "I am delighted, proud and extremely excited to be named Wales head coach for this period.

"I would like to congratulate Warren on his thoroughly deserved selection and the honour of being named head coach for a second successive Lions tour.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being head coach in 2012 and 2013. I am excited to have the challenge once again, and I would like to thank the WRU for this opportunity.

"We kick off four back-to-back matches in Cardiff, with Australia first up on November 5. Not only is the Under Armour series important for us on the field, the 2019 Rugby World Cup seedings will be decided upon post 2017 Six Nations, so each match is vitally important to us looking ahead to that competition."

Howley joined the WRU as assistant Wales coach in 2008, and currently works alongside Robin McBryde, Shaun Edwards and Neil Jenkins in Gatland's coaching team.

Reflecting on Gatland's Lions appointment, Phillips added: "We would like to congratulate Warren on the appointment and the honour of leading the British and Irish Lions for a second consecutive tour.

"The appointment is recognition of Warren's standing in the game, and we are proud to support his role."

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