Tug of war over Tony Brown

Tony Brown is currently assistant coach with the Japanese national side. Photo: Getty Images
Tony Brown is currently assistant coach with the Japanese national side. Photo: Getty Images

The top two contenders for the soon-to-be-vacant All Blacks head coaching role are set for an almighty tug of war over the same assistant when they pitch their respective visions for the team in the wake of the failed Rugby World Cup campaign.

The New Zealand Herald understands that Ian Foster and Scott Robertson have both approached former All Blacks first-five and Japan national assistant coach Tony Brown to form an integral part of their coaching team - should they be appointed as Steve Hansen's successor in December.

Hansen will be in charge of the All Blacks for the final time tomorrow night in the World Cup bronze match against Wales in Tokyo.

Foster was initially considered the leading contender to replace Hansen, after eight years as his right-hand man, but the World Cup semifinal defeat to England would have hurt his chances.

At the same time Robertson, who has won three successive Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, is believed to have the support of the bulk of the current All Blacks crop.

It is understood that Foster and Robertson have both requested the services of Brown, who over the past few years has proven his creative genius - first at the Highlanders and more recently alongside Jamie Joseph with Japan.

After the devastating defeat to Eddie Jones' England at the weekend, several leading All Blacks - including midfielder Ryan Crotty - have identified unlocking teams' improving defensive patterns and linespeed as key to the All Blacks' success next year.

Outgoing New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew told Newstalk ZB's Martin Devlin earlier this week that an appointment panel would be announced after the Wales game.

It is understood that former All Blacks coach Graham Henry could form a part of the four-person panel.

Meanwhile, Stuff are reporting that Foster could bolster his proposed coaching team with a "rock star" assistant - believed to be former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt - despite the fact that Schmidt has already indicated that he has no immediate desire to return to top-level coaching after more than six years with the Irish.

The Herald understands that Robertson may try to coax Ronan O'Gara, a former Irish test star and his assistant at the Crusaders last season, back from France, while Foster is likely to carry Scott McLeod through as his defence specialist.

Hansen's successor is expected to be appointed before Christmas.

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