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Outgoing Hansen endorses Ian Foster as All Blacks head coach

TOKYO (AP) — Steve Hansen has endorsed Ian Foster to replace him as head coach of the New Zealand All Blacks. Hansen's tenure finished with a 40-17 win over Wales in the third-place playoff at the Rugby World Cup on Friday, six days after semifinal loss to England ended New Zealand's bid for a third consecutive title.

Foster is a long-serving assistant coach and is among the candidates to succeed Hansen, who was an assistant to Graham Henry at the 2007 and '11 World Cups before taking over and guiding the All Blacks on a successful title defense in 2015.

"I guess with hindsight, because (Foster) has been there for the last eight years and done a fantastic job and understands what happens, he's got a good head-start over everybody else on what's needed," Hansen told a news conference Saturday. "He's known for a long time that I'll be leaving and he's put together a very strong team. And if that team comes together they'll have a lot of ingredients that are needed."

Hansen, who had a stint as head coach of Wales before returning to New Zealand to join the All Blacks coaching staff, has previously touted Foster as the best option to succeed him. Foster has been an assistant coach since 2012.

But the semifinal loss has had an impact on sentiment back in New Zealand, where many All Blacks fans see the need for an entirely new coaching partnership with fresh ideas. Aside from Foster the leading candidates appear to include current Wales coach Warren Gatland, who will return to New Zealand after the World Cup to coach Super Rugby's Chiefs, and Jamie Joseph, who guided Japan to the World Cup semifinals.

Former All Black Scott Robertson, who has coached the Crusaders to the Super Rugby title in each of the last three seasons, has indicated his interest in the role. But there is likely to be opposition to Robertson taking over from Hansen, who is also a former Crusaders coach, with the Christchurch-based team seen as exerting too much influence over All Blacks selections.

More AP Rugby World Cup: https://www.apnews.com/RugbyWorldCup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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