As contenders for the All Blacks head coaching job dwindle by the day, attention will soon turn to not just those who remain, but their scramble to assemble compelling running teams.
Over the next three weeks Ian Foster and Scott Robertson are expected to engage in a head-to-head battle to replace Steve Hansen.
Before embarking on their respective interviews, the behind-the-scenes chess game of pulling together coaching teams is well underway.
The Season: Hamilton Boys High School – Episode 2
New Zealand Rugby made it clear the decision to appoint the next All Blacks head coach will be swayed by the collection of assistant coaches as much as it will the new lead man.
With Jamie Joseph, Tony Brown, Dave Rennie and Warren Gatland all now committed elsewhere, this is where permutations get interesting.
Hurricanes coach John Plumtree is believed to have emerged as one key target.
From Wales to Ireland, South Africa, Japan and Wellington, Plumtree is a vastly experienced mentor who has enjoyed success in both head coaching and assistant capacities.
Alongside Chris Boyd he led the Hurricanes to their maiden title in 2016 as defence coach. Under Plumtree’s guidance, that season the Hurricanes did not concede a try in three successive playoff matches.
The All Blacks' loss of Tony Brown as a potential coaching candidate has become the Highlanders' gain.https://t.co/2NY04Mca1u
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 22, 2019
The 54-year-old former Taranaki loose forward/lock is a tough task master who also held the forwards coaching brief previously – notably under Joe Schmidt with Ireland from 2013-14.
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