Warren Gatland will return to New Zealand to coach the Chiefs after the World Cup.

Radio Sport reported this morning Gatland has signed a four-year deal to return to the Waikato for the 2020 Super Rugby season, which was later confirmed by the club.

The 55-year-old is calling time on over a decade as Wales head coach after this year's World Cup in Japan and has already been confirmed as the next British and Irish Lions coach to tour South Africa in 2021.

He will be released next August to coach the British and Irish Lions and return for the 2022 and 2023 Super Rugby campaigns.

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Gatland said he was grateful for the chance to return home to New Zealand to coach a side he has a strong connection to.

"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. 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."

Gatland has been the head coach of Wales since 2007, leading them to three Six Nations grand slam titles, and coached the Lions on tour's of Australia and New Zealand.

He also coached the British and Irish Lions to a series win in Australia in 2013 against Robbie Deans' Wallabies and to a drawn series with Steve Hansen's All Blacks in New Zealand in 2017.

Gatland has previously expressed an interest in returning to coach in New Zealand again after the World Cup "if there was an opportunity".

New Zealand Rugby Head of Professional Rugby Chris Lendrum welcomed Gatland's appointment.

"This is an outstanding appointment and a coup for the Chiefs, for Investec Super Rugby and for the game in New Zealand generally. We are excited to have a coach of Gats' experience and international standing coming back into our environment."

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Former All Black Justin Marshall said he thought it was a great move by New Zealand Rugby.

"I've always said that for New Zealand Rugby to be innovators and stay at the top of all competitions, including international rugby, we need to have the best resources available to educate our players and make them the best they can be, and when you have someone as succesful as Warren Gatland, a Kiwi, who has plenty to offer - get him back."

FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015 file photo, Wales' coach Warren Gatland walks on the pitch ahead of the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match between South Africa and Wales. Photo / AP.
FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015 file photo, Wales' coach Warren Gatland walks on the pitch ahead of the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match between South Africa and Wales. Photo / AP.

It was announced yesterday Cooper was stepping down from the Chiefs this year with his next priority to spend time with his family.

Cooper, who has coached the Chiefs for the past two seasons, opted not to see out the last of a three-year term and sought an early release from the club.

Chiefs boss Michael Collins said he and Cooper had been in discussions for several weeks, which meant the Chiefs could begin their recruitment process discreetly without interrupting the 2019 campaign.

"We are grateful to Coops for his outstanding leadership and coaching at the Chiefs. He is a proud man who set an incredibly high bar in terms of personal standards and behaviour, both on and off the field.

"We are really proud of the culture he has fostered inside our club and team environment, and he can be proud of what he has achieved with the Chiefs."

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew acknowledged Cooper's commitment and contribution to the Chiefs and NZ Rugby.

"Coops is a remarkable individual with great presence and mana. We know Coops to have a special talent in communicating with young men and working to bring the best out of those in his charge, and to help grow outstanding individuals on and off the field.

"We appreciate that he will have some decisions to make and while he will have choices in front of him, we hope his special abilities won't be lost to New Zealand rugby.

Under Cooper, the Chiefs reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 and 2019 Super Rugby competition.

Cooper said he was proud to have been part of the Chiefs and leading a "great group of young men".

"I believe the team and the club are bigger than the individual and the club comes first. With next year the start of a new World Cup cycle, I believe it is the right time to step aside. There is a good crew of players and staff here who are committed to carrying the club forward," Cooper said.

AT A GLANCE
Warren Gatland's coaching career

Galwegians RFC: 1989-94
Thames Valley (assistant): 1994-96
Connacht: 1996-98
Ireland: 1998-2001
London Wasps: 2002-05
Waikato: 2005-07
Chiefs (technical advisor): 2006-07
Wales: 2007-19
Lions: 2009 (assistant), 2013, 2017, 2021