London - Wales head coach Warren Gatland is the "leading contender" to coach the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand next year, the team's chief executive John Feehan said on Tuesday.
"It would be absolutely ludicrous of me to say that Warren would not be the leading contender -- he clearly is," Feehan said in an interview with Sky.
"If he is involved, it will be a third tour for him. He has a record that is pretty much second to none in the northern hemisphere and so he has to be the leading contender."
New Zealander Gatland, 52, was part of the Lions' coaching staff in South Africa in 2009 and led the team on their triumphant tour of Australia in 2013.
He is widely expected to return to the role for the 10-game tour of his homeland, which will feature a three-Test series against the world champion All Blacks.
Gatland was appointed Wales coach in late 2007 and has guided the country to three Six Nations titles, including two Grand Slams, as well as the World Cup semi-finals in 2011.