Sam Warburton says it would “really surprise” him if Wales boss Warren Gatland succeeds Eddie Jones in the England hot-seat.
And Warburton also believes the British & Irish Lions will be “desperate” for Gatland to take charge of his third tour by leading them to South Africa in 2021.
A Springboks mission would complete the set for Gatland, who is undefeated as Lions chief, having masterminded Test series success against Australia six years ago and held world champions New Zealand to a memorable drawn series in 2017.
Gatland’s long 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.
The 55-year-old, whose Wales team are two wins away from marking his final Six Nations campaign with the title and Grand Slam, has also been linked to taking over from Jones – either post-World Cup or when the Australian’s contract expires in 2021.
But former Wales and Lions captain Warburton, who was appointed to both roles by Gatland, said: “I don’t think he would coach England.
“Not that he wouldn’t want to and he wouldn’t enjoy the challenge, but I just couldn’t see it happening.
“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.
“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.”
Warburton was Wales’ last Grand Slam skipper in 2012, and a stirring victory over England seven days ago 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.”
Lock Cory Hill has been ruled out of Wales’ final push for the Guinness Six Nations title and Grand Slam.
The Dragons forward will miss Wales’ games against Scotland and Ireland because of an ankle injury.
The Welsh Rugby Union confirmed Hill’s absence from the fixtures at Murrayfield on March 9 and then in Cardiff seven days later.
Hill was hurt during Wales’ 21-13 victory over England at the Principality Stadium on Saturday. He scored a try as his team wiped out a seven-point interval deficit.
Wales will win the Six Nations if they defeat Scotland and Ireland, and also secure a first tournament clean sweep since 2012.
Hill, 27, has played a key role during Wales’ 12-game unbeaten run that stretches back to February last year.
With Hill now sidelined, Adam Beard and Jake Ball are among the options as skipper Alun Wyn Jones’ second-row partner in Edinburgh.
“Cory was outstanding on Saturday,” Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins told WRU TV.
“He scored a try as well and is a fantastic player for us and a good guy to have around the squad, so he is certainly going to be a loss.
“But any loss is someone else’s opportunity, and we have some fantastic players in that position as well.
“I am sad for Cory, but it is an opportunity for someone else.”
Wales have beaten Scotland on four of their last five visits to Murrayfield, and they will head north as firm favourites for another win.
Jenkins added: “It will certainly be a tough game for us in two weeks’ time.
“For us, there is one focus and one focus only, and that is Scotland. There is nothing else after that as far as we’re concerned.
“So we need to prepare properly, prepare well and be ready for a really tough encounter, which I am sure we will get.”
The dust has just about settled on a stunning victory over England, which has put Wales in pole position to mark head coach Warren Gatland’s final Six Nations campaign with silverware.
“It’s always an incredible game playing England, let alone in those circumstances – with both sides unbeaten in the first two games and with England playing exceptionally well in the first two games,” Jenkins said.
“We certainly had to up our game from the first two (against France and Italy), and I think we did that.
“The boys were sensational from the first to the last minute.
“From my point of view, and I know I’m biased, I thought we fully deserved it and it was an outstanding performance.”
Wales have landed another blow on England by replacing their rivals in third spot in the latest set of global rankings.
Warren Gatland’s men are the only team still capable of winning the Grand Slam after a stunning 21-13 victory in Cardiff on Saturday propelled them to the summit of the Six Nations table.
England, who were labelled chokers by Gatland in the wake of their second-half implosion at the Principality Stadium, drop to fourth in the rankings compiled by World Rugby.
Wales have fixtures with Scotland and Ireland to come, but with Italy and Scotland due at Twickenham it is England who remain favourites to win the 2019 Six Nations.
France are also on the move after their 27-10 victory over Scotland in Paris lifted them two places up the standings above Argentina and Fiji. However, they remain one spot below their victims in Paris.
Ireland remain in second place behind leaders New Zealand following their edgy 26-16 win against Italy in Rome.