The BBC has dropped a significant hint as to who might be the eventual replacement on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ for Len Goodman, who is quitting the show at the end of the current series.

46 year old Karen Hardy, a former professional dancer on ‘Strictly’ until 2009, has been selected to be a judge on the panel for the show’s live tour early in 2017. This will reportedly act as a kind of trial for the permanent role for the 15th series this time next year.

Karen HardyKaren Hardy pictured in 2012

According to a report in The Sun, ‘Strictly’s producers want to see what Hardy is like in front of a live audience of thousands before they consider putting her in the spotlight in front of millions next year, while also letting her get experience from sitting alongside head judge Goodman before he leaves for good.

More: Ola Jordan says Bruce Forsyth nearly caught her having sex backstage at ‘Strictly’

Her inclusion on the tour comes as a blow to the hopes of dancer Anton du Beke, 50, who had been tipped by many to be Goodman’s replacement along with fellow dancer Brendan Cole, 40, who had judged the New Zealand version of the series.

“This is a huge statement in favour of Karen. It's now not looking good for Anton,” an insider told the BBC.

Trent Whiddon, another dancer on ‘Strictly’, had told The Mirror this summer that the BBC was minded to give du Beke the opportunity, with Craig Revel-Horwood becoming the head judge.

“It isn't official yet, but it may as well be – it's long been virtually guaranteed that Anton will fill any gaps on the judging panel. He's such a big part of the family and viewers love him, so BBC bosses know there's no risk of it not working out.”

Goodman had stunned fans back in July when he revealed that the 2016 series would be his last on the show, having been judging on the panel since the start back in 2004.

More: Ed Balls admits the standard on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ is “too high” for him