NZR launched its process to find Hansen’s replacement as All Blacks head coach last week, by inviting applications from a group of coaches familiar with New Zealand’s professional rugby environment.
NZR announced that it invited 26 Kiwi coaches to apply for the vacant role, with chairman Brent Impey confirming that shortlisting, interviews and negotiations would be conducted through November and early December, with a head coach to be announced prior to the Christmas break.
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“One of the issues facing New Zealand Rugby (NZR) will be not to destroy Super Rugby by all the coaches going to the All Blacks environment,” he told Stuff.
Smith, who spent 15 years over three stints in a coaching capacity with the All Blacks, said he couldn’t recall the top job being so hotly contested, but said it should be an area of careful consideration for NZR.
“I can’t remember another time when it’s been so competitive. If you look at 2007, it was Robbie [Deans] versus us [Sir Graham Henry, Hansen, Smith]. That was competitive, but this is a different level,” Smith told Stuff.
“Here, we’ve got three or four top coaches with great credentials, all with their own ways of doing things, putting impressive teams together and all having a crack at the top job. It’s great. It’s going to be bigger than Coronation Street.
“It will depend on who they get in their teams, how are they going to address some of the challenges around creating new structures and a bit of freshness.”
Front-runners for the job include current All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster and Crusaders coach Scott Robertson – both who have confirmed they would submit their case to NZR to replace Hansen.
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph is also considered a favourite, should he decide to apply.
“For some of these guys, it’s a win-win. It’s not a win-lose,” Smith said.
“If Razor [Robertson] doesn’t get the All Blacks, it’s still a win. He’s probably wanted all around the world, but he’s actually got a job at the Crusaders and he’s got a chance to win a four-peat, which has never been done.
“Jamie Joseph is the same. If he gets the job, it’s a win. If he doesn’t, he’s wanted in Japan again.”
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