The first time Steve Hansen publicly expressed doubt about whether he would extend his contract as All Blacks coach beyond 2017 was the day after the last World Cup final at England's Pennyhill Hotel base.

Then, reflecting on his team's 34-17 victory over the Wallabies at Twickenham alongside skipper Richie McCaw, he told the international media: "I wouldn't say no, but I'm certainly not saying yes either.

"I would probably say it's more likely I won't be there after 2017... it's been a good trip so far and we've just got to finish it off."

Hansen revealed today in confirming his new contract would take him through to the next World Cup in Japan in 2019 - it officially ends in March 2020 - that that moment back on that overcast November day in Bagshot, a day he was celebrating a personal and collective triumph, was when he felt his chances of continuing were at their lowest.


But after asking himself whether he had the desire to continue, and getting positive feedback from his family and senior players, his hunger to stay on was confirmed by the recent whitewash of Wales.

In the end it isn't a surprise that he has re-signed - his winning record as head coach and ability to lead the team to a defence of the Webb Ellis Trophy speaks for itself - but his public doubts were an indication that he was prepared to put the team ahead of his personal ambitions, something that he would expect his players to do.

His ability to improve the All Blacks since taking over from Graham Henry in 2012 has been astonishing, and the World Cup victory in the United Kingdom was a breakthrough in terms of how his players performed on and off the field. There really was no alternative for New Zealand Rugby; the bottom line is that Hansen's re-committal gives the All Blacks the best chance of winning three World Cups in a row.

"Probably the highest point was straight after the World Cup," Hansen said today of his doubts about continuing. "I often get asked, 'why would you go back when you've climbed the mountain', and the simple answer as I had more time to think about it was that I don't know if we actually have climbed the highest mountain.

"There are still mountains to be climbed and we can still get better and I can still get better as a coach, so why not do that with the team that you love and one you've been working with for so long?"

He added: "There's a real excitement about having the opportunity to go to Japan in 2019 and look to try to win three in a row. It's never been done before and that's a challenge this team really enjoys.

They get up for the big challenges. But before that happens we've got some re-establishing to do. We've only just finished the Welsh series which went quite well but we're going to go into a Rugby Championship very shortly, so our focus has got be really on that and in our short-term planning obviously we'll be looking towards the Lions next year."

Hansen's 91 per cent winning record with the All Blacks, the best for a top-tier international coach in the modern era, is not something that drives him, he said. It was about the desire to continue to learn and improve both as a technician and man-manager, and the next time those qualities will be tested will be on August 20 in Sydney when the All Blacks play Australia in the first match of the Rugby Championship, a match which will pit him against former assistant Mick Byrne, who has moved back to his native Australian and quickly accepted a job with the Wallabies.

"He's got our support," Hansen said. "He's a good man. It's just one of those things. He'll get on with it and we'll get on with it and we'll have a bit of fun when we play them."