The incomparable reign of Steve Hansen as All Blacks coach will finish after next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Hansen has announced that next year will be his eighth and last in charge of the world champions, ending with what he hopes is the successful defence of the Webb Ellis Cup.
The 59-year-old hasn’t made a decision about his future beyond 2019, denying some reports he plans to take up an over-arching director role at New Zealand Rugby.
Hansen has overseen the All Blacks during a period of unprecedented success, with just eight losses in his 96 Tests in charge.
That betters the record achieved during the eight years of Graham Henry’s tenure, when Hansen was an assistant.
“It’s right to have someone new after the World Cup,” Hansen said on Friday.
“I’d like to coach this team for the rest of my living days but it’s not the right thing to do.
“I think change after the Rugby World Cup will bring a new outlook for the team and it’ll be time for someone else to enhance the legacy of the All Blacks.”
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.
His ability to maintain the All Blacks’ high standards after such players moved on is a measure of his coaching ability.
Hansen said he wanted to make the announcement about his future early so New Zealand Rugby had time to identify a successor.
“This is a critical process which shouldn’t be rushed and shouldn’t be made in the turbulent period that tends to follow a Rugby World Cup campaign,” he said.
A number of overseas-based contenders will be in the mix for 2020, including Warren Gatland, Vern Cotter and Dave Rennie.
Hansen’s long-time assistant Ian Foster will also be in contention, along with successful Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.