Warren Gatland is to be unveiled as head coach for the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand knowing a brutal itinerary has just been made even harder.

Gatland is poised to fill the post for a second time after masterminding the 2-1 series victory over Australia three years ago with confirmation due at a press conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

The 52-year-old Kiwi has the sabbatical required by the Lions written into his Wales contract and, accompanied by tour manager John Spencer, will depart for New Zealand on Thursday to begin plotting the world champions' downfall.

A photo of Gatland posing in a Lions shirt surfaced on social media yesterday.


The arduous 10-fixture schedule culminating in a three-Test series has grown even more challenging with the news that All Blacks will be selected by their Super Rugby teams for the early tour matches.

It means the Blues, Highlanders and Crusaders will be at, or close to, full strength.

The tour comprises of five fixtures against Super Rugby sides with the Chiefs and Hurricanes completing the list, an opener against a provincial union team, a clash with the New Zealand Maori and three Tests.

Gatland expressed his concern about the schedule shortly before the Six Nations in January.

"It's a really tough tour. I'm not saying the Lions can't win, it's just a tough schedule," Gatland said.

"It's the hardest place in the world to go and play, from a travel and organisation perspective as well as the rugby perspective.

"It's not un-winnable, but it's a very, very tough schedule."

The Lions have prevailed just once in 11 previous visits to New Zealand - John Dawes' 1971 tourists triumphed 2-1 - and were demolished in their last meeting with the All Blacks in 2005.