The next 10 days will be crucial for Wayne Smith as he decides whether to leave the Chiefs for a role with England which could include being head coach.
Smith has given himself a 10-day deadline after meeting current head coach Stuart Lancaster in Durban, South Africa, recently and admits to a tough period of soul-searching ahead.
He has signed with the Chiefs for two years but has an exit clause in his contract and, with the season ending at the start of August, he could be at Twickenham as early as September.
That would put him on a collision course with the All Blacks in early December and, after coaching them to World Cup success, that is something else he has to consider.
"I've got some major considerations to make over the next 10 days,'' Smith admitted.
"Family is a big one. We've only just moved up here [from Christchurch]. Trish and I and my family are all in Putaruru [Waikato] and that was a major part of coming back home. Mum and dad are in their 80s so it's been great to be back in my home province again.
"The Chiefs are a major consideration because I love the group and it's exciting being a part of it and I've enjoyed being back in Super Rugby.
"The third one is having put the last eight years of my life into coaching the All Blacks and trying to win the World Cup, I'm going to have to search inside myself to see whether I could coach a team against them. Particularly a team that has a coach in Stuart Lancaster who has real clarity of vision and knows what he wants. I think he's going to turn them into a force so it's not just going to any team, it's going to a team that over time will potentially challenge the All Blacks, so I've got to be clear in my mind that I could be a part of that.
"I've got a lot of mates in the [All Blacks] management team and guys I love playing in the jersey. Again, it's a big factor in the equation.''
Where Smith fits into the England equation is not clear-cut, either, but he would be willing to take on a head coaching role, with Lancaster, given the job fulltime after taking over on a caretaker basis from Martin Johnson in this year's Six Nations, becoming director of rugby.
Smith, defence coach at the Chiefs who are leading the Super Rugby competition, has previously talked of his reluctance to take another head coaching role after being in the hot seat at the All Blacks in 2000 and 2001. He left that role to become head coach of English club Northampton before returning as an assistant at the All Blacks.
But when asked whether the opportunity was a backs, defence or head coaching role, he replied: "All of the above are the suggestions'', adding he would do what was best for the team.
"I love being a head coach. The only question I had over the England job that was advertised, the actual job description of the role, was that it was more in line with strategically running the team. It didn't appear to be a `track-suited' role. I couldn't imagine a foreigner coming in and running the All Blacks. I'm of the belief that it's right that an Englishman does that for the English team. Any other role ... I'm pretty used to being the head man. I'm always comfortable in that role.''
It also sounds like he would be comfortable working with Lancaster following their dinner in Durban.
"He's very humble and he knows what needs to be done over there because it's not just about coaching the players as we've found out here with the All Blacks, it's aligning all your provincial coaches and club coaches because they're the people coaching your players. Getting them on-side and getting the buy-in to the national team being strong and vibrant and challenging the best in the world is pretty important. That will be his major role, I think. He wants some on-field coaches, he will be in charge of strategy and alignment, I think, and the campaign overall.''
Smith's impressive track record with the All Blacks and now at the Chiefs means he is an attractive prospect. Adding to that is the fact former league player Andy Farrell was wanted by Lancaster but turned him down to remain at the Saracens club. France defence coach Dave Ellis, an Englishman, has offered his services for England's June tour of South Africa.
- APNZBy Patrick McKendry Email Patrick