COMMENT:

Abow wave of opinion about the next All Blacks coach will surge through the country before Christmas.

While the team has signed off from their playing duties, Steve Hansen will announce his plans beyond next year's World Cup which will reignite intense debate about the direction of the national sport.

Like the exit of Irish coach Joe Schmidt, there could be several twists with one concept gaining traction, that Hansen will move to a newly created role as director of New Zealand rugby where he could oversee his coaching successor.

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Under the Steve Tew-Hansen preferred model of continuity, Ian Foster would be elevated to head coach, however he may choose to combine his coaching interests and, like Hansen and Wayne Smith, broaden his experience with a change of lifestyle for his family in Europe.

Decisions and opinions for both men will have fluctuated as much as their thoughts have altered about the All Blacks.

Hansen thought it best for the team if the coach changed midway through a World Cup cycle but when that time came he changed course and signed on until next year's tournament in Japan.

They thought Damian McKenzie was a five-eighths and wanted him playing that role for the Chiefs but on the latest tour to Europe he was the preferred fullback against the Wallabies, England, Ireland and Italy.

Rugby works best with boundaries but the canvas must be fluid if teams want to improve.
One thing we can be sure about no matter how hard some people try and manipulate his words — Schmidt will not be the All Blacks coach.

He is a man of rare principle who wrestles with his obligations as a rugby coach and family man including the special needs of his epileptic son. Ireland have appointed Andy Farrell as his successor after the 2019 World Cup and Schmidt will move away from rugby to ponder the next move for his family.

Lions and Wales coach Warren Gatland will return to New Zealand after that tournament and wants to continue coaching but, like another expatriate, Dave Rennie, will have to get past some NZR hurdles.

The success of Canterbury, the Crusaders and the All Blacks has strengthened the powerbase of chief executive Tew and Hansen whose ideas usually find the path to success at board level. They will have talked at length about the national coaching picture beyond the next World Cup and how to refresh that landscape.

Whether Hansen wants to continue in a new role or clear out his office, Foster will be privy to that information and have assessed his plans but Gatland, Rennie, Vern Cotter, Robbie Deans, Chris Boyd, Jamie Joseph and others will be waiting for that announcement to help them prepare their next move.