New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has announced that its launched the process to find the next All Blacks coach.
Outgoing coach Steve Hansen declared late last year that he would step down at the completion of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Speculation has been mounting that it's a four-man race for the job between All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster, Japan coach Jamie Jospeh, Crusaders coach Scott Robertson and Glasgow Warriors coach Dave Rennie.
The announcement comes a day after Japan assistant coach Tony Brown told Sky Sport that he'd been approached by Foster and Robertson to be their assistant if either got the job, but he turned them down to stick with Joseph.
In a statement, NZR said it has already started the process by inviting applications from a select group of coaches familiar with New Zealand's professional rugby environment.
Following that, the group will be shortlisted, interviewed and then negotiations will begin with the preferred candidate. That is all expected to be done through November and early December.
NZR expects to announce the new coach before Christmas.
The appointment panel includes NZR chairman Brent Impey, incoming NZR chief executive Mark Robinson, NZR Head of High Performance Mike Anthony, former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry and former Silver Ferns Coach and High Performance Sport New Zealand director, Waimarama Taumaunu.
"This is a hugely exciting time for New Zealand Rugby. We know that the All Blacks and New Zealand have been served well by exceptional coaches, so we are well aware of the importance of the task ahead," Impey said.
"This is an official employment process, and therefore it's confidential. We are looking forward to announcing the next head coach of the All Blacks next month."