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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 08:30 GMT
Mitchell faces Henry battle
Graham Henry
Henry has recently returned to top-level coaching with Auckland
John Mitchell and former Wales and Lions coach Graham Henry are the only candidates to coach the All Blacks after applications closed on Monday.

Mitchell was forced to reapply for his job after the All Blacks failed to live up to expectations in the World Cup, losing to Australia in the semi-finals.

Wellington Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper was another contender, but decided against applying.

Mitchell and Henry will appear before a three-man panel with a decision expected before the end of the year.

"While it's not normal practice to reveal applicants' identities, both men agreed to make their names public," said NZRU chief executive Chris Moller, who will sit on the panel alongside director Mike Eagle and vice-president John Graham.

"They both recognise that there is immense public interest in the role of All Blacks coach."

Henry coached Wales from 1999 to 2002 and the British and Irish Lions in their 2-1 series loss against Australia in 2001.

"This opportunity has got me excited," said Henry, who was recently appointed as Auckland's National Provincial Championship coach for the next two seasons.

He added that the possibility of coaching the All Blacks had been something he "held dear for a long, long time and I'd love to do it."

Under NZRU regulations, successful applicants for the post must have coached at Super 12, NPC or national age-group level in the last six months, while non-New Zealanders are ineligible.

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