We still haven't signed anything yet but it's very close
New Zealander Warren Gatland has revealed he expects to coach the British and Irish Lions' tour of Australia in 2013, forcing him to set aside his Six Nations duties with Wales next year.
Gatland, who is in New Zealand recuperating from a fall, told a function in Hamilton that he was poised to ink a deal with the Lions for the tour, which will take place from June 1 to July 6.
"We still haven't signed anything yet but it's very close, and if I do take the position I'll be seconded to the Lions for 10 months," he was quoted as saying by Fairfax Media.
Gatland, who guided Wales to a Grand Slam this year, said he would return to Britain on Sunday and expected an announcement on the Lions' coaching role to be made on September 4.
The Lions, featuring the best players from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, visit Australia once every 12 years, with the Wallabies winning the last series Down Under in 2001 by two Tests to one.
The 10-match 2013 tour begins with a clash against the Barbarians in Hong Kong, before moving to Australia, where there will be Tests against the Wallabies in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
Gatland said he would relish the opportunity to participate in an "old-style tour", which includes matches against provincial teams as well as high-profile Tests.
"It's a great chance to mould players from four different countries together in such a short period," he said. "I think we get them for about a week before we go on tour, and it's a great experience. It's difficult to do."
Gatland said that if appointed, he expected to be given permission to be involved in Wales's build-up to a one-off Test against New Zealand at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on November 24 this year.
However, he said he would not coach Wales for Tests at the same venue against Argentina (November 10) and Samoa (November 16) and would also sit out the country's Six Nations campaign next year.