All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith has suggested Ian Foster is being 'primed' to take over from Steve Hansen as All Blacks head coach in 2019.
Hansen, who coached the All Blacks to a second successive World Cup win last year, signed a contract extension in August, which will have him in charge through to the 2019 tournament in Japan.
Former Waikato Chiefs stalwart Foster has been open about his desire to take the top job, and today Smith confirmed the current All Blacks assistant coach is a work in progress.
"I've really come to admire Fozzy's work within the team," Smith told Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch. "He's got a great personality, good connections with the players, so he's got an existing persona of All Blacks coach. "He's assistant head coach to Steve, so shares a lot of the jobs, tasks and decision making, and is being primed to take over."
"I like that continuity and I also like the fact there is the ability to bring young coaches back to work with someone like Fozz, and we've got other young coaches in the country that are going to be exceptional. But yea, I'm in favour of that concept."
Smith, arguably the sharpest mind in rugby, has announced that he will step down from New Zealand's coaching team at the conclusion of this year's Rugby Championship in September.
Nicknamed "The Professor", Smith has a 20-year association with the All Blacks as a player and then in three spells as a coach. Tonight's test against South Africa will be Smith's last game on home soil with the All Blacks.
Smith said he wasn't 'brought up to do anything extra-ordinary', but surpassed all expectations due to his super competitive instinct.
"You can't talk about my story without talking about the bad-times," Smith told Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch. "I wouldn't be anywhere near the coach I am today, if I didn't experience the lows of 2001 and 2007."
"But now I'm going to enjoy watching the game with a beer in my hand rather than my heart in my mouth."