Steve Hansen has confirmed he will almost certainly stand down as All Blacks coach after the World Cup, paving the way for an almighty battle to replace him.

Appointed as head coach in late 2011, Hansen is contracted through to 2019 and says he will not seek to extend his current deal before the next World Cup.

He says that having also been the assistant coach from 2004-2011, the time will be right for him to stand down in 2019.

"I think, without committing to it 100 per cent, I can't see myself extending beyond the World Cup and there are probably a couple of others [All Blacks management team] who won't either.

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"We have talked to the NZ Rugby Union about talking to some of the people whose contracts I think they should definitely extend already and they are doing that.

"Then it comes down to do they [NZR] want continuity from a head coaching point of view or do they want someone new. That will be up to the appointment panel. There are some good candidates."

When Hansen talks of continuity he effectively means promoting someone, most probably assistant coach Ian Foster, from within the existing coaching team.

The value of continuity has been proven by Hansen. Having been given intimate knowledge of the All Blacks as assistant between 2004 and 2011, he easily saw off the only other contender for the job, who was Vern Cotter and has subsequently coached the team to a World Cup victory and just four defeats in five years.

But it is probable a host of other well qualified coaches will be on the market by 2019, giving NZR genuine choice about which direction they take.

Former Blues assistant Joe Schmidt has been hugely successful since taking over the Ireland team in 2013, and has previously stated he'd be keen to come back to New Zealand.

Warren Gatland, who will arrive in New Zealand as head coach of the British & Irish Lions this week, will also finish up with Wales in 2019 and he too says he will be coming home to New Zealand.

Cotter, now with Montpellier in France, had a successful tenure with Scotland and may be interested in the role when it becomes available and then there are a number of Super Rugby coaches such as Tana Umaga, Dave Rennie, Chris Boyd and Tony Brown who may feel they are ready to apply in another two years.

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Hansen had previously said that he feels the All Blacks would be best served by making a head coaching change mid-way through a World Cup cycle, to break the pattern of jobs being dependent on results at the show piece tournament.

He said that after the 2015 World Cup, suggesting then that he would stand down in 2017. But after saying he intended to make 2017 his last year, New Zealand Rugby persuaded him against that idea and extended his contract last year.

"I guess I am kind of arguing against myself," he says. "But it will be eight years as head coach and eight years as assistant coach - 16 years all up - and throw in another three years or so that I had with Wales.

"There is a lot of scrutiny and I will be forever thankful for the opportunity. But top of the pyramid is my family and it will probably be time to give them more."