The Six Nations kicks off this weekend, marking the beginning of a process that could end in Wellington next year with the appointment of a new All Blacks coach.

It is possible that the man asked to coach the Lions will be in pole position to become the next All Black coach.

There's a logic of sorts to that - masterminding defeat of the All Blacks next year as a way to become the best man to coach the All Blacks.

The Lions are due to tour New Zealand next winter in a brutal schedule that includes three tests.


The composite side plans to make a coaching appointment in July this year, after the four respective nations have finished their June test commitments.

Performance in the Six Nations will have a huge bearing on who wins the Lions job and while the door is open to a coach not in charge of an international team, it's unlikely it'll go that way.

It's also unlikely that England will be comfortable allowing the newly appointed Eddie Jones to take on the role. Lions management expect whoever becomes coach to fully commit from the middle of this year, meaning taking a 12-month sabbatical from any other commitments.

It would be a surprise if England have any appetite for that, which means there are likely to be only three candidates - Kiwis Warren Gatland, Vern Cotter and Joe Schmidt.

Schmidt says he has contractual obligations that would prevent him from applying which may or may not be a genuine barrier. But it is an intriguing thought that six months from an appointment being made, the three prime candidates are all Kiwis.

That intrigue is heightened by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen saying at the end of last year that he's not inclined to stay in the role beyond his contract at the end of 2017.

5 Feb, 2016 5:00am
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If Hansen steps down and the Lions have either won the series or given a solid account of themselves with a Kiwi coach, New Zealand Rugby is going to be interested.

Gatland will be the favourite for the Lions role. He's established Wales as a consistent and credible force in the game and is the most experienced international coach in the global game. His association with test football goes back to the late 1990s when he was given charge of Ireland.

While he's contracted to Wales until 2019, he'll no doubt have the ability to get out of that should the All Blacks come calling.

Cotter has had an obvious impact on Scotland since he took over in 2014 and guided them to the quarter-finals where they were one awful refereeing blunder away from making the last four.

He applied for the All Blacks job in 2011 but missed out on a second interview largely because he didn't have international experience. If Scotland can play the sort of rugby they managed at times during the World Cup, then Cotter is going to have a case to make to the Lions.

His good friend Schmidt has already won plenty of admirers for the work he has done with Ireland. The Irish players talk of his meticulous planning and attention to detail - factors the All Blacks have always prided themselves on.

All three are as much potential coaches of the All Blacks as they are the Lions. Their chances of becoming either will start to be affected by results and performances this weekendso this Six Nations is worth keeping an eye on.