The Welsh Rugby Union have confirmed that they want to have their new coach in place and working alongside Steve Hansen during the up coming RBS Six Nations Championship, but they have refused to rule out employing another non-Welshman for the job.
The hunt for Hansen's successor will begin in earnest following the New Zealander's announcement that he will definately leave Wales when his contract expires in May.
The Welsh Rugby Union will publicly advertise the post before Christmas and hope to appoint the new man before the opening game against Scotland on February 14th 2004, giving them less than three months to get their man.
"We hope to advertise the post before Christmas, if not then soon after, and have the person employed so he can shadow Steve Hansen during the Six Nations," said Steve Lewis, WRU General Manager. "That would be the ideal scenario though we understand that it might not necessarily be possible."
All five regional bosses have been told they will have to apply, just as anyone else, and that there is no guarantee that the successful candidate will be Welsh.
"We just want to ensure we have the best man for the job, whether he is Welsh or not," said Lewis.