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Wales closing on eventual successor to Gatland

Gareth Davies says Wales aren't far away from finding Gatland's replacement. Credit: PA

Wales hope to announce Warren Gatland's successor as national head coach by next summer.

New Zealander Gatland, who has been in charge of Wales since late 2007, will leave his post after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

It is understood that a list of eight possible contenders has already been whittled down to three candidates.

Speaking to reporters after the Welsh Rugby Union annual general meeting on Sunday, WRU chairman and former Wales fly-half Gareth Davies said: "We have got a target of announcing the new Wales head coach by the summer of 2018.

"We have been very busy boys over the last six months talking to various people, and we are making progress on that.

"We have caught up with various people when we've had the chance to do so."

Gatland's reign has harvested three Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams and an appearance in the 2011 World Cup semi-finals, when Wales were knocked out by France after skipper Sam Warburton was sent off.

Current Wales assistant coach Rob Howley, who has twice stepped up to the lead coach role for season-long stints when Gatland has been on British and Irish Lions duty, could be in the frame as a successor, while Wasps rugby director Dai Young also has his admirers.

"Warren hasn't been involved in the interview process so far," Davies added.

"But we will want to use him in the business moving forward in terms of who gets the job."

Gatland is set to announce his squad for the autumn Tests later this month, with Wales facing games against Australia, Georgia, New Zealand and South Africa between November 11 and December 2.