Warren Gatland is committed to seeing out his contract with Wales until the end of the 2015 World Cup, when he will consider his options.
He will not be short of offers after masterminding the first Lions' series triumph since 1997, on top of two grand slams and success at club level, but the tourists hope he will make himself available for the 2017 tour to his native New Zealand.
The last Kiwi to take charge of the Lions, Graham Henry in 2001, was the All Blacks' head coach on the next trip. Asked some 15 hours after the 41‑16 victory over Australia in the series decider if there could be a repeat in four years, Gatland, who has spent most of the past 20 years in Ireland, England and Wales, produced the deadest of bats.
"I am committed to Wales and the World Cup and I am excited about what we can achieve with the talent we have," he said. "We have a chance of doing well in the Six Nations and the World Cup. After that, I will consider my future; I might just hang up my boots and head for the beach with a glass of red wine and a cigar.
"There is a lot of water to go under the bridge before 2017. I have been lucky enough to be involved with successful teams and a couple of grand slams with Wales, together with a World Cup semi-final helped me get this opportunity; if the chance came again it is potentially something I would look at."
Victory makes a difference. Gatland was accused in the buildup to the third Test of betraying the heritage and tradition of the Lions by naming 10 Wales players in the starting line-up and blowing the chance of success by omitting Brian O'Driscoll. The Lions' official Twitter page received dozens of abusive messages, which the head coach was made aware of.
"It was a challenging week, starting with criticism that we had given the players a couple of days off," he said. "We knew there would be fallout from the selection, and the way we played we would have won with Brian, but I felt at the time it was the correct rugby decision. We have made some really tough calls throughout the series based on what we had seen, physical stuff and analysis of games.
"When I coached Ireland, I cost us the chance of a grand slam when I changed things for an away game in Scotland. I was influenced in selection and I promised myself that I would never back down again from what I felt was the right decision. When you believe in something deep down, you have to back yourself 100%. Social media changes your perception of things and it has been a learning experience in terms of how you communicate things. The fallout can be aggressive and it is pretty anonymous as well."
The Lions' manager, Andy Irvine, admitted he was among those who wondered if Gatland had made the right call over O'Driscoll. "I was as disappointed as anyone when Brian was left out because, in my eyes, he outstrips even great Lions like Gareth Edwards and Willie John McBride. It was a massive wrench not to have him in the team, and Warren deserves a huge amount of credit: he made a very difficult decision for the right reasons. He has been outstanding and we are looking at the succession for the 2017 tour.
"Brian's reaction was outstanding and it summed up what has been a successful tour on and off the pitch. We had a great set of players who were full of fun and hard work. No one was awkward or full of themselves and we just have to make sure that on the next tour we give the coaches more preparation time.
"The Lions committee did its damnedest to changing the timing of the RaboDirect and Aviva Premiership finals because it was bonkers to hold them 48 hours before we left for Hong Kong, even offering money, and we know the scheduling is all wrong. The Lions are bigger than domestic and European finals."
Gatland agreed that adequate preparation time should be a priority. "Maybe the start of the tour could be pushed back a bit," he said. "We also need to look at the number of lead-up matches: the game is becoming more and more physical and it is tough to play twice in a week. Perhaps there should be time to rejuvenate. We have to make sure the proper processes are in place to give the Lions the best chance of success."
The Lions have only once won a series in New Zealand, in 1971. "Any notion that we cannot win there in 2017 is rubbish," said the captain, Sam Warburton. "I always believe. Australia have been Wales's nemesis but as soon as I saw the 37 players who had been selected in the squad, I thought we would win the series. Our fans were immense and it was special to be part of this tour."
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