Warren Gatland is in line to become just the second overseas coach to lead the British and Irish Lions on tour after being offered the chance to take charge of next year’s tour of Australia, it is understood.
It is understood that the Wales coach was interviewed for the role of head coach, along with Ireland’s Declan Kidney and Scotland’s Andy Robinson, in London last week and is set to follow in the footsteps of fellow New Zealander Graham Henry.
Henry, who coached the All Blacks to 2011 World Cup glory, was in charge of Wales when he coached the Lions on their 2001 tour of Australia, where they lost the Test series 2-1 despite a resounding first Test win in Brisbane.
Gatland, 48, is the outstanding candidate for the role after guiding Wales to a second RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam of his four-year tenure and has previous Lions experience having been part of the backroom staff for the 2009 tour to South Africa.
The Lions plan to unveil their choice of head coach at the end of April or start of May, and it is understood that initial talks have been held between Gatland, who is currently back in New Zealand, the Lions and the Welsh Rugby Union regarding the terms of his release from Wales duty for the tour.
One of the key areas of discussion is whether Gatland takes charge of Wales for their autumn international schedule later this year.
The Lions would ideally like their head coach to be available for a 12 month period prior to the trip Down Under.
Gatland is set to head to Australia when Wales tour there in June, which could prove valuable in terms of preparation for taking the cream of British and Irish rugby back there next year.
And the WRU are also keen for him to be in charge come November, before stepping aside for the 2013 RBS 6 Nations.
WRU chief executive Roger Lewis told The Guardian: “We have had informal discussions with the British and Irish Lions over the last few months and we have talked to Warren about this for the best part of a year.
“Warren does not have a clause in his contract which contains provision for him to coach the Lions, but we are hugely supportive of him and them.
“What I will say is that there is no question that Warren will not be leading Wales on our very important tour to Australia and I, personally, would like him to be involved in our autumn Tests against New Zealand and Australia in Cardiff.”