All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has given the clearest indication yet of who he thinks should replace him after next year's World Cup...and it's not Ireland's Joe Schmidt.

Hansen announced that he would be stepping down after six years in the role at a press conference in Auckland.

Schmidt, who led the Irish to victory over the All Blacks in Dublin last month, announced soon after that he, too, would "finish coaching" after the Japan tournament in 2019.

He hinted this week, however, that he could be open to a future coaching role with the All Blacks.

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Joe Schmidt has left the door open to a future All Blacks role. Photo / Photosport
Joe Schmidt has left the door open to a future All Blacks role. Photo / Photosport

Schmidt is considered one of the favourites to replace Hansen, but New Zealand Rugby bosses are believed to back Hansen's current assistant Ian Foster to succeed him.

"I think he would be a great head coach," Hansen said of Foster.

"He's developed as a coach, as a man. He's got some great qualities and his understanding of the game is great. [But] I don't think it's right that I sit here and say that guy should do the job or that guy. That's the Rugby Union's job. I've got my opinions and for one of the very few times in my life I'll probably keep that opinion to myself."

Asked whether it was important to have international experience to be an All Blacks head coach, Hansen said: "If you get the right person it doesn't matter what they've done.

"I hear you guys [the media] go on about that a fair bit… the best coach in the world at the moment – Joe Schmidt, named coach of the year – he lost his job at the Blues, yet he's developed and grown and become a very good coach, and that's not to say he wasn't one then either, it just didn't work."

Criticism of Foster's track record is unfair, Hansen said.

Steve Hansen says criticism of Ian Foster's track record as coach is unfair. Photo / Getty
Steve Hansen says criticism of Ian Foster's track record as coach is unfair. Photo / Getty

"I hear things about Fossie – 'he didn't win anything at the Chiefs' – well, that's because the Crusaders were winning everything at the time. Those things are irrelevant. I go back to my own career. I had both records – I lost the most tests in a row [for Wales], and I've won the most tests in a row [for All Blacks].

"One day I'm a poor coach the next day I'm a good one. Things change and evolve. People said the Rugby Union were taking a massive risk giving me the job. And they did. You've just got to trust the process."

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