Game changer: All Blacks coach to bow out after World Cup

Steve Hansen says a fresh set of eyes are needed to keep the All Blacks on top of the rugby world, setting up a 12 month guessing game.

After eight years as head coach, Hansen will quit after next year’s World Cup in Japan, ending an era of dominance unmatched anywhere.

It will open the door to the most sought after rugby coaching post in the game, one occupied by just two men since 2004 — Graham Henry and Hansen.

While former assistant Hansen succeeded Henry in a straightforward promotion, the 2020 appointment shapes as a dogfight.

NZ Rugby chairman Brent Impey confirmed recruitment won’t begin until Hansen departs, creating a “clear runway” for the best candidates.

Speculation has already thrown up offshore based Kiwi names such as Warren Gatland, Vern Cotter, Jamie Joseph and Dave Rennie.

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Successful Irish mentor Joe Schmidt is seemingly out of the mix, promising to step down from coaching after the World Cup.

Double title winning Crusaders coach Scott Robertson might show some interest, along with Hansen’s long serving assistant Ian Foster.

While Hansen said Foster boasted the right credentials, he was reluctant to nominate a successor.

Instead, the 59-year-old wants to fix his sights on next year’s defence of the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan, relieved the same question won’t keep dogging him and that more time with his family is on the horizon.

Hansen has overseen the All Blacks during a period of unprecedented success, with just eight losses in his 96 Tests in charge.

Stepping aside will be painful but necessary.

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“I’d like to coach this team for the rest of my living days but it’s not the right thing to do,” he said.

“It’s right for the team to have someone new after this World Cup, some fresh eyes, some fresh thinking.

“I’m focusing on making sure that we get to next year and we try to retain that Bledisloe Cup and try to do something that’s not been done before, which is win three of these World Cups in a row.

“I’m highly motivated by that.”

The former policeman enjoyed success with Canterbury and the Crusaders before taking charge of Wales for two years in 2002.

He was enticed home by Henry after John Mitchell was deposed as All Backs coach.

Hansen has overseen the career of some of world rugby’s finest players such as Richie McCaw and Dan Carter but it was an ability to maintain the All Blacks’ high standards after such players moved on that set him apart.

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