We know the contenders and there will be a decision after the World Cup in Japan but we are no clearer about the All Blacks coach to succeed Steve Hansen.

The power-base of New Zealand Rugby, chief executive Steve Tew and Hansen, will have discussed that landscape and nutted out a preferred result in the race for the job in 2020 but there will be multiple variables and rugby politics can be as duplicitous as that inside the Beehive.

There may be more twists than Hansen hanging his blazer on the peg, with some marketplace noise that assistant Ian Foster is thinking about coaching offshore after the World Cup. However, if he decides he wants to succeed Hansen, events in Japan will have a significant bearing on that target.


Ireland's Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt has ruled himself out of the race because of compelling family circumstances and anyone who knows his principles understands he won't change his mind. He may have a tilt in future but not this time.

Warren Gatland brings acres of experience with Wales and success with the Lions, Dave Rennie oversaw the national under-20 side, the rise of the Chiefs and is testing his talent overseas with the Glasgow Warriors, while Vern Cotter was an assistant at the Crusaders, coached Scotland to better levels and now Montpellier.

They are men who have sparred with the NZR hierarchy and felt the flames of rejection. Would those experiences encourage each to have another tilt, would that have to be as a package, or would they feel another attempt would deliver the same outcome?

Given their history and public comments, NZR likes some coaching continuity and that adds weight to the argument Foster has the best claim to the All Blacks coaching job, as long as the team delivers.

However, a stumble at the next World Cup would shake that bid and the aspirations of defence assistant Scott McLeod.

Others such as Gatland, Rennie and Cotter, or fresh talent such as Jamie Joseph, Tony Brown and Scott Robertson would see more chance of promotion if that was their 2020 ambition. Tucked away from the spotlight are Milton Haig in Georgia and Robbie Deans in Japan, who may harbour ambitions about being involved in the All Blacks set-up.

While Hansen, with significant political support from Tew, headlined the coaching crew behind the All Blacks' remarkable success, a range of candidates knew they had no traction in their quest for an All Black role.

That influence will persist next year but the World Cup will be a massive marker and perhaps bigger than anyone is prepared to say. Results will be telling, Hansen is going and Tew is probably casting around for another project after more than a decade at the helm.