Steve Hansen is highly likely to be the next All Blacks coach but will have to go through the formalities of several interviews before he gets there.

His likely assistant, Ian Foster, won't have to though, and it's this process that has raised eyebrows among rival coaches.

The Hansen and Foster double act has been widely signalled as the combination to take over from Graham Henry when his NZRU contract expires at the end of the year. Indeed, senior All Blacks were told this year that the pair would be the next coaches in charge of the national team.

Hansen is seen as a sensible choice. The former Canterbury, Crusaders and Wales coach joined the All Blacks coaching team in 2004, working alongside Henry and Wayne Smith, who is leaving to be Dave Rennie's assistant at the Chiefs next season.


Hansen has continuity on his side but also the belief and trust of senior All Blacks. Having won the World Cup, he also now has a decent track record.

Applications for the role of next All Blacks coach close on November 25 and it is understood NZRU high performance manager Don Tricker has written to about 20 eligible coaches asking them to consider applying.

But the devil is in the detail - only head coaches will be interviewed and only after they signal their preferred coaching team.

The letter states: "All applications should include an up-to-date CV covering both on-field and off-field experience, along with an indication of the make-up of your preferred coaching team."

Several coaches in New Zealand who have got the letters have spoken off the record about the "flaw" in this selection process, with one saying NZ's coaching stocks weren't big enough to organise alliances before applying for the top job.

"You could get to the stage where the assistant coach will lobby for the top job and might get it because no one else has formed the right alliances," he said. "There should be a separate interview process for assistant coaches."

Another point one coach made was that on paper Foster does not have a great record. He was in charge of the Chiefs for eight years from 2004 and his most successful season by far was in 2009 when his side made the Super 14 final against the Bulls in Pretoria only to lose heavily, 61-17.

Given the process, presumably neither Tricker nor the NZRU Board will have the opportunity to ask Foster about his coaching philosophies or strengths or weaknesses before he is named alongside Hansen.

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed during the week beginning December 12.

After the initial interview, up to two candidates will be interviewed by the NZRU board and a decision will be made by Christmas. Given the short timeframe, it's clear the NZRU is not expecting a flood of applications.

The drums are also beating for Mick Byrne to be involved with Hansen and Foster. Byrne, the current All Blacks skills coach, had a role with Japan in the recent World Cup.

A former AFL player, he has also worked with the Manly Rugby League club and the Scotland Rugby Union, and will have a wider role in any future All Blacks set-up.