Wales now loom as the All Blacks' biggest threat at the Rugby World Cup, leaping to second on world rankings, after their Six Nations Grand Slam.
Under the guidance of Kiwi Warren Gatland, the Welsh cemented their northern hemisphere domination with a 25-7 win over Ireland on Sunday (NZT) saw them hurdle their rivals on the latest global list.
And former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick considers Gatland could step into the NZ national team head coaching role, when it becomes vacant after the world tournament.
New Zealand are seeking a three-peat of titles in Japan later this year.
"Obviously not living in New Zealand, I'm not sure what process they're going through," he told Trackside Radio from England. "New Zealand's very keen on developing their own and employing from within.
"I think the result of the World Cup will have a bearing on that and if the All Blacks win the World Cup, I'm sure they will continue the way they are.
"But he's proven himself - he's a world-class coach."
Gatland, 55, has now masterminded four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams, while guiding Wales to the 2011 World Cup semi-finals.
He also steered the British & Irish Lions to a series draw with the All Blacks in 2017.
Wales has already provided a bona fide career path to the All Blacks job, with Sir Graham Henry and Steve Hansen - the last two head coaches - spending time in charge of the Welsh.
"Is Warren even available?" mused Fitzpatrick. "He's talking about the next Lions tour and being involved in that.
"England may also be talking to him, with Eddie Jones moving on also."
Fitzpatrick saw Gatland's stamp all over the victorious Welsh outfit.
"I think they prepared very well, which is no surprise under a coach like Warren Gatland," he said. "They were just superb in that last game, which typified the style of rugby they play - they don't make many mistakes.
"They don't have many superstars, but everyone does their job very well.
"They play very similar to the All Blacks in terms of being defensively very sound. They strangle teams and that's exactly what they did to Ireland.
"Let's not forget how good Ireland are and to beat them like they did is quite ominous in terms of Rugby World Cup 2019."