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Gatland facing snub as Kiwis line up Hansen No 2 Foster

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 8/07/2017 Gavin Mairs and Cian Tracey
Speculation has been mounting that Gatland is one of the leading candidates to take over. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile © Provided by Irish Independent Speculation has been mounting that Gatland is one of the leading candidates to take over. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Speculation has been mounting that Gatland is one of the leading candidates to take over if, as expected, Hansen steps down at the end of his contract after the 2019 World Cup.

However, NZRU policy states a preference for coaches to be based in the country to be considered, and Ian Foster, the All Blacks assistant coach, was last night described as the "obvious, logical choice" to succeed Hansen by Steve Tew, the governing body's chief executive.

The Welsh RU indicated this week that while it expected Gatland to see out his contract, which also expires in 2019, it would be prepared to release him early if he wanted to return to New Zealand for a Super Rugby job.

Meanwhile, Munster have confirmed the signing of South African forward duo Chris Cloete and Gerbrandt Grobler.

The province have been tracking Cloete, an abrasive flanker, for some time and the 26-year old joins from the Southern Kings on a three-year deal.

Cloete has been on the fringes of the Springboks squad in recent times and last month was in with a shout of making his international debut, but he has signed a deal to become a project player.

Cloete will add plenty of bulk and his power at the breakdown will be a huge asset. He will link up with Munster following his Currie Cup commitments.

Grobler is a controversial signing as the lock served a two-year suspension from 2014-16 for testing positive for the anabolic steroid drostanolone.

The 25-year old spent last season at Racing 92 where he played 20 times. Grobler has previously played for Western Province as well as the Stormers and is due to link up with the Munster squad for pre-season.

Meanwhile, South African sides the Cheetahs and Southern Kings have moved a step closer to joining the Guinness PRO12 next season after their exit from Super Rugby was confirmed.

Super Rugby will be cut from 18 to 15 teams and both South African sides are exploring "other international opportunities".

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