Ronan O'Gara has said he believes that Joe Schmidt will return to coaching in New Zealand at some stage in the future.
It was announced last month that Schmidt was to "finish coaching" at the end of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, with Andy Farrell to succeed him.
Schmidt said he plans "prioritise family commitments after the RWC in 2019".
However, yesterday's announcement that New Zeland boss Steve Hansen is to end his reign as head coach at the end of the World Cup sparked further speculation that Schmidt is an All-Blacks boss in waiting.
Writing in his Irish Examiner column, O'Gara said the All Blacks won't rush their decision to pick Hansen's successor but added that there is "the Joe Schmidt factor".
"Media here [in New Zealand] has been very quick to seize upon his ‘never say never’ comments in Dublin this week as an indicator that he might well consider the All Black post in 2020.
"Timing, as always, is everything. Could Joe be in charge of the All Blacks for 2023?
"It seems only John Delaney has the capacity to appoint coaches and their replacements, but I sincerely doubt that the likes of [current New Zealand assistant Ian] Foster would be prepared to keep the seat warm for Schmidt if he replaces Hansen.
"Which is why I suspect the NZRU will take as much time as they need to get the succession stakes right."
Whoever ends up in charge of the All Blacks after Henson, O'Gara feels getting the replacement right "will define the legacy of NZRU chief Steve Tew."
Read Ronan O'Gara's Irish Examiner column in full here.