Jeff Stelling has been confirmed as the new host of Countdown – with unknown maths genius Rachel Riley joining him as Carol’s Vorderman’s replacement.

Jeff, who fronts Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports, will replace Des O’Connor as host of the long-running Channel 4 quiz in January.

He said: “I am delighted to be hosting Countdown and follow in the footsteps of such great broadcasters as Richard Whitely, Des Lynam and Des O’Connor.”

Oxford graduate Rachel beat off stiff competition from 1,000 applicants for Carol’s job – despite having no previous TV experience.

Rachel said: “This is the best graduate job in the world. There’s only one cool maths job around and I was lucky enough to get it so I’m absolutely thrilled.”

Helen Warner, head of Channel 4 daytime, added: “I’m very excited that Jeff and Rachel will be picking up the Countdown baton from 2009.

“They make a great team and I feel certain that our much-loved words and numbers game will go from strength to strength with them at the helm.”

The pair hit our screens in January and Jeff will continue to present Soccer Saturday and other shows for Sky.

Fans can see Des and Carol’s final show in December.