ELLINGTON, Newzland, November 1 – All Blacks coach Graham Henry, one of the world’s most successful coaches, announced Tuesday he is stepping down just nine days after guiding the team to win the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
But the 65-year-old, affectionately known as “Ted”, said he had turned down offers to join overseas clubs and would stay in New Zealand to assist in the development of local coaches.
“It’s been an enormous privilege to coach the All Blacks and I am exceptionally proud of how the team has added to the All Blacks legacy over the last eight years,” he said.
“I am also exceptionally proud of how they have developed an extremely professional and enjoyable culture and environment, and how they have reached out to people of all ages and put a smile on their faces, both here in New Zealand and overseas.
“So I want to say a special thank you and congratulations to all the players who have played during this time, especially to Tana Umaga and Richie McCaw, the two long-term captains.”
Throughout Henry’s tenure the All Blacks have predominantly been the world’s top-ranked rugby side, and he was the target of considerable anger in New Zealand four years ago when they suffered a shock loss in the quarter-finals of the last World Cup.
Now, he bows out a happy man after coaching the team to a cliff-hanger 8-7 win over France in the final of the latest edition of rugby’s showpiece tournament and said he had at last found “inner peace”.
Coaching “does take its toll,” he said, adding: “I didn’t particularly enjoy the last 10 minutes of the game against the French in the final of the Rugby World Cup” when the All Blacks clung to a one-point lead.
Of the 103 Tests the All Blacks played under Henry, they won 88 including 48 of 51 home Tests.
They have won the Tri-Nations tournament with Australia and South Africa five times, achieved three Grand Slams against the Northern Hemisphere Home Unions and have held the Bledisloe Cup, contested with Australia, since 2003.
“He leaves the All Blacks job as one of the greatest coaches in the game,” New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said.
“His record is unsurpassed and while he will now get time to spend with family and friends, and the odd bit of fishing, we are delighted that Graham is still going to be involved in New Zealand rugby.”
Tew said the discussions were under way to have Henry in a mentoring role for coaches at Super 15 and provincial level.
Henry and his assistant Steve Hansen, his likely successor as the All Blacks coach, have one more coaching role this year when they take charge of the Barbarians against Australia at Twickenham later this month.
The All Blacks other assistant coach, Wayne Smith, has already announced the end of his role with the side and will take up a coaching position with the Super 15 franchise Waikato Chiefs next season.
Henry coached the Auckland Blues to Super rugby titles in 1996 and 1997 before moving abroad and coaching Wales from 1998 to 2002 before returning to New Zealand and taking over as All Blacks coach in 2003.
In 2001 he became the first Southern Hemisphere coach to coach the British and Irish Lions side.
He was awarded the International Rugby Board’s Coach of the Year award a record five times (2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011) and in 2008 received the Pierre de Coubertin Trophy awarded by the International Committee for Fair Play.