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Warren Gatland is 'leading contender' - Lions chief

Warren Gatland has been described as the "leading contender" to coach the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand next year.

Wales head coach Gatland was in charge of the Lions' Test series-winning tour of Australia in 2013.

And the New Zealander is widely expected to retain that post for a 10-game New Zealand trip highlighted by three Tests against the world champion All Blacks.

Ireland boss and Gatland's fellow New Zealander Joe Schmidt would also currently be a strong candidate, having overseen two successive Six Nations title triumphs.

But Gatland, who was part of the 2009 Lions coaching staff in South Africa, would appear to be in pole position.

" It would be absolutely ludicrous of me to say that Warren would not be the leading contender - he clearly is," Lions chief executive John Feehan told 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."

Wales have won three Six Nations titles, including two Grand Slams, and reached a World Cup semi-final since Gatland was appointed in late 2007.

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