British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland may stick around to lead the team's next globetrotting tour despite suffering an overall series defeat in South Africa.
The New Zealander led the Lions to victory in Australia eight years ago and presided over a draw against his home nation in 2017, but his third crack as expedition leader ended in heartbreak.
A 19-16 defeat to the Springboks on Saturday saw the hosts claim a 2-1 overall victory, damning the Lions to their first tour loss since they were last in South Africa 12 years ago.
The dust is yet to truly settle on that series defeat, but attention has already turned slightly to the next tour, planned for 2025 with the Lions set to head back to Australia.
And despite an unsuccessful end to the team's latest tour, the Daily Mail reports Gatland could be set to stick around and be given the chance to atone for that disappointment.
Lions chairman Jason Leonard said on Sunday Gatland "has to be in consideration" to lead the next tour, and praised the 57-year-old by saying: "If you cut him in half, he bleeds Lions."
He added: " Twenty-four hours after the test, we have not really gone down that route [considering the next head coach], but Warren Gatland has to be in consideration. It’s great to hear he is up for it."
Managing director Ben Calveley said he feels "exactly the same" about the prospect of Gatland continuing in the role, and described him as "an outstanding coach and individual".
He said: " He has brought together this team of rivals, bonded them in the most challenging situation we have faced on any Lions tour and he deserves massive credit because in our view he is right up there as one of the very best in the world."
Calveley also revealed there is no specific deal which forces the Lions to stick to the established schedule of alternating trips to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
This means the Lions could consider visiting new countries on future tours, though the managing director said he was "not looking to deviate from the traditional model".
Instead, supporters are set to head to Australia in four years' time to cheer on the Lions on another tour Down Under.
The Lions hierarchy and Rugby Australia are both expecting a bumper crop of tourist fans to visit for the tour, as Covid rules and travel restrictions prevented any British fans from heading to South Africa this time.
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