Rugby: All Blacks lose two leading coaching contenders

The All Blacks' coaching picture has become a little clearer.

Both Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland have all but ruled out succeeding Steve Hansen after this year's Rugby World Cup, leaving local favourites as front-runners for the most-coveted job in the game.

And New Zealand Rugby's far from worried about its dwindling shortlist of contenders.

Schmidt has beaten the All Blacks, but he's not ready to take charge of them….yet.

Ireland's mentor has once and for all ruled himself out of the running to replace Steve Hansen next year.

"The short term plan is not to be involved in coaching," Schmidt said. "Certainly not for 12 months. I'd say quite likely longer than that."

But NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew is still leaving the door ajar for Schmidt to come back into consideration.

"We'll keep talking to him, like we do all of the other coaches," Tew said.

"If there is an opportunity for him at some point in time to come back to our game, he'll be welcome."

Tew says ultimately it'll be up to Schmidt to decide whether he wants to coach the All Blacks.

"He hinted that he might even have an ambition to be a Lions coach. I guess one day the Lions will appoint someone other than a Kiwi, but we'll have to wait."

Outgoing Lions and Wales coach Gatland will also wait before taking aim at the All Blacks role when he returns home next year.

"I'd love to come back and coach in New Zealand and do some Super Rugby if there's an opportunity...not at All Black level."

New Zealand Rugby is not concerned its shortlist has been reduced by two overnight.

"You look around the world there are New Zealanders coaching everywhere. A lot of them have done really well, have all gained very valuable experience," said Tew.

"You put that into the mix with a number of very good coaches that are here, you look at Plum and co"

So John Plumtree, Ian Foster and Scott Robertson now the front-runners, but the speculation will continue until an appointment is made after the Rugby World Cup.