Four candidates have been shortlisted to coach the All Blacks but the real contest is expected to be between incumbent Graham Henry and Robbie Deans of the Canterbury Crusaders.
The New Zealand Rugby Union said yesterday that Henry, Deans, Wellington Hurricanes' Colin Cooper and Waikato Chiefs' Ian Foster would be interviewed next week.
Henry surprised most New Zealand pundits by choosing to stay and fight for his job after the All Blacks' surprise World Cup quarter-final loss to France.
If he is reappointed, he will be the first All Blacks coach not to lose his job after a failed World Cup campaign.
Deans is the commentators' favorite to take over after maintaining the Crusaders' record as the most consistent Super 14 team during his eight years in charge.
Seven candidates had put their hands up for the most pressured job in New Zealand sport but the union declined to name the three who did not make the shortlist.
Rugby committee chairman Mike Eagle said the board was delighted with the candidates.
"We are confident that the short-listed candidates provide a very strong field to choose from," he said in a statement.
The candidates will be interviewed on Thursday next week and the NZRU board is due to meet the following day.
But Eagle said while the union was aiming to name a coach before Christmas, no deadline had been set.