Wales want to appoint Gatland's successor in 2018
The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) hopes to appoint Warren Gatland's replacement in 2018, more than a year before the head coach is scheduled to vacate his post.
Gatland, Wales boss since 2007, is due to bring his lengthy tenure to a close after the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
A clear succession plan could be in place by that point, though, with the WRU already speaking to candidates - reported to be Gatland's New Zealand compatriots: Glasgow's Dave Rennie, the Scarlets' Wayne Pivac and Chris Boyd, who won a Super Rugby title with the Hurricanes.
"We are targeting the summer to make the appointment," the governing body's chief executive Martyn Phillips was quoted as saying by The Observer.
"We have drawn up a shortlist and we have had conversations with one or two others and will be staying in touch with them.
"The game tends to work in cycles between World Cups, which means people will be available in the summer of 2019.
"If I was the new coach, I would want to sit down with Warren and find out what things are like."
Gatland, a target for Premiership side Northampton Saints, has guided Wales to Six Nations success on three occasions and taken sabbaticals to prepare and coach the British and Irish Lions twice, leaving high standards for the next coach to aspire to.
Nevertheless, the WRU is not restricting its search to coaches with international experience.
"That is not one of the top criteria," Phillips said.
"Having watched Warren on the Lions tour to New Zealand last summer we want someone who can make really tough calls in selection."
Phillips also revealed the organisation will not necessarily prioritise homegrown candidates.
"We do not have a thing that he needs to be Welsh," he said.
"The chief criterion for me is someone who is successful and has won something.
"He will have to work closely with our four regions and all three [candidates spoken to] have bought into that: if any of them had said they saw themselves only as the head coach of the national side they would not have made the shortlist.
"We want to involve Warren in the process moving ahead because he understands the modern requirements of a coach. Whether the new coach will have a role in the 2019 World Cup will be considered but it would be down to Warren.
"We are moving quickly because top coaches tend to work in four-year cycles and none of the three would have to break a contract."