Warren Gatland has “categorically” ruled out coaching England.
The Wales boss was confirmed as British and Irish Lions head coach for the 2021 tour to South Africa in London on Wednesday, then quickly scotched any talk of taking charge of England in the future.
The 55-year-old has the chance to go unbeaten in Lions Test matches for a record third consecutive tour in South Africa, after winning the 2013 series in Australia and drawing in New Zealand four years later.
Gatland will relinquish his job as Wales head coach after this autumn’s World Cup, then will start full-time with the Lions in August 2020.
But despite strong links to a future role with England, Gatland now looks likely to return to his native New Zealand after his 2021 Lions duties.
“I can categorically tell you now I will definitely not be coaching England,” Gatland told TalkSport.
Gatland had been touted as a replacement for Eddie Jones, whose England contract expires in 2021.
The current Wales boss’ Lions duties would have left him available at just the right time for England – although he has previously joked England would not be able to afford his services.
Now he has definitively ruled out coaching England, it paves the way for a future Super Rugby coaching role – and perhaps a long-term crack at leading the All Blacks.
Gatland also admitted his next Lions tour will be his last, with the Kiwi having acted as forward coach in the 2009 tour to South Africa and been installed as head coach every time since.
Asked if the South Africa tour will represent his last Lions gig, Gatland said: “I think so, yeah. 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.
“I’ve been extremely privileged to have the honour of being involved with the Lions, this will be my fourth tour, and I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity.”
Gatland led the Lions to a surprise drawn series with back-to-back world champions New Zealand in 2017, on a tour he admitted at times he did not enjoy.
But now the decorated Wales boss has admitted the chance to lead the Lions again was an opportunity he simply could not refuse.
“I love the Lions as a concept, there were parts of the New Zealand tour that were incredibly challenging,” said Gatland.
“Any Lions tour for players and coaches is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do as a coach, in terms of planning and preparation.
“Scrutiny of the press was at the forefront at the time, but the hospitality in New Zealand, the atmosphere in the games, it was incredible.
“Being part of the Lions and with an opportunity to go to South Africa, there was some unfinished business from 2009.
“I couldn’t turn my back on this challenge.
“And to think about the possibility of leading the Lions in South Africa, I know it’s going to be tough, a real rugby hotbed in terms of going over there, and the Lions in the past have always found it quite difficult, how physical and passionate they are.
“I spoke to my family and thought this is something I couldn’t turn my back on.”