Warren Gatland has agreed to become head coach of the British and Irish Lions for the tour to South Africa in 2021, Sky Sports News understands.

The Lions have moved swiftly to secure Gatland for a record-equalling third successive term, with Sir Ian McGeechan the only man to achieve the feat by leading the Lions from 1989 to 1997.

Although the contract has yet to be signed as Gatland is currently in New Zealand, it is understood a verbal agreement has been reached.

A start date has not been finalised, but it is likely that the most successful coach in Six Nations history will take up the role a year out from the tour.

The Kiwi, who won his third Six Nations Grand Slam with Wales his year, has been touted as a potential successor to Eddie Jones as England head coach when the Australian vacates the position in August 2021.

On the surface the timing appears ideal for Gatland as the tour of South Africa ends the month before Jones completes his tenure, but the RFU stipulated at the time of extending Jones’ contract that they would want the Australian’s replacement to work under him for his final year in charge.

However, it is doubtful someone of Gatland’s stature would agree to taking the job on those terms.

A tour of South Africa would mean Gatland has visited all three Lions host nations, with his side winning their 2013 tour of Australia, while in 2017 the series ended in a thrilling draw after the decisive third Test failed to provide a winner.

A spokesman for the Lions declined to comment on the news.

(c) Sky News 2019: Warren Gatland to lead British and Irish Lions in South Africa