Warren Gatland: Links with England surprise Sam Warburton

Warburton and Gatland
Warren Gatland appointed Sam Warburton as both Wales and British and Irish Lions captain

Sam Warburton says it would "really surprise" him if Wales boss Warren Gatland succeeds Eddie Jones in the England hot-seat.

Warburton believes the British and Irish Lions will be "desperate" for Gatland to take charge of a third tour, leading them to South Africa in 2021.

"I don't think he would coach England," the ex-Wales and Lions captain said.

"Not that he wouldn't want to and he wouldn't enjoy the challenge, but I just couldn't see it happening."

Gatland's 12-year reign as Wales boss will end after the World Cup later this year, and he could be a free agent when the Lions make their coaching appointment for South Africa.

Gatland is undefeated as Lions head coach, having masterminded Test series success against Australia six years ago and held world champions New Zealand to a memorable drawn series in 2017.

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Six Nations: Wales come back to stun England 21-13

The 55-year-old, whose record-breaking Wales team are two wins away from a Six Nations Grand Slam, has also been linked to taking over from Jones - either post-World Cup or when the Australian's contract expires in 2021.

"He is like an honorary Welshman now! If it did happen it would really surprise me, to be honest, and I personally couldn't see it happening," Warburton continued.

"I think the Lions would be desperate to get him back on board.

"They have got a new chief executive there now, and he will know probably more than anybody that you have got to keep the spine of your coaching team the same.

"They will want some continuity. They will have some continuity in the playing group, but you must have continuity from a management point of view, and who better than Warren?

"Whether he will do it or not is yet to be seen, but I think the Lions would be desperate to have him."

Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones (right) congratulates Warren Gatland on his side's Six Nations victory over England

Warburton was Wales' last Grand Slam skipper in 2012, and a stirring victory over England means that success against Scotland at Murrayfield next weekend and Ireland in Cardiff seven days later would mean a dream Six Nations farewell for Gatland.

"I think they are in a great place," Warburton added.

"I thought before the England game that if Wales won they would mean proper serious business.

"The way that they bounced back and met fire with fire. England came with this massive physical game-plan, and it was so impressive when they took that away from them. Wales are looking serious business."

Warburton also believes that Gatland left something of a calling card when he questioned England's ability to win the games that matter immediately after that 21-13 triumph.

The countries could meet in a World Cup quarter-final showdown in October, and Warburton said: "Gats is a bit more clever than the average fan will think.

"I think he has planted it in there because if it worked out that Wales played England in the World Cup, which they could, then it would be brought straight back up and the pressure would go on to the England players.

"England being England, people always expect so much. It was a clever statement by him, and maybe there is some truth in it.

"If you look over the past six years, the three biggest games we played against England - 2013, 2015 and this year, the closest you will get to a championship decider not on the final weekend - and Wales have come out on top."

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