WELLINGTON, New Zealand December 16 – Steve Hansen was confirmed as the new head coach of the All Blacks after serving eight years as an assistant coach of the world’s most successful rugby side.
“From a coaching point of view in this sport it’s the greatest honour you can receive. It comes with a huge amount of responsibility,” Hansen said when his appointment was announced on Friday.
With the All Blacks the newly crowned world champions, and no team having won successive World Cups, Hansen said he relished the challenge ahead and stepping out of Henry’s shadow.
“You look at the Rugby World Cup history and teams have struggled slightly afterwards, but that makes the challenge even more exciting,” he told a media conference.
“As Ali said to George Foreman around round seven of rope-a-dope, ‘It’s not a good time to get tired George,’ so we can’t afford to either.
“We’ve got to put a full stop on what we’ve achieved, and it’s a magnificent thing what we have achieved, but this is a new team, a new group of people and we have to make our own history.”
Hansen, a 52-year-old former policeman has signed a two-year deal and his coaching staff will be named next week.
He said he would have only one assistant coach and a panel of specialist coaches.
The previous three-man coaching team was in place for eight years, but as well as Henry stepping down backs coach Wayne Smith has also moved on and taken up a role with the Super 15 side Waikato Chiefs.
New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Mike Eagle said Hansen was the best possible candidate for the job.
“I want to congratulate him on his appointment. He is an outstanding coach and has been a key part of a hugely successful All Blacks team since becoming an assistant coach in 2004.
“He has huge respect and backing from the team and his peers and is the right man to now lead the team.”
Eagle said having a World Cup-winning coach involved in leading the team forward was a major advantage and allowed for a seamless transition.
Hansen said he was both excited and honoured to be chosen to succeed Henry.
“I have huge pride in New Zealand rugby and I’m passionate about the All Blacks and New Zealand,” he said.
“I feel humbled and proud to be given the opportunity to lead the team into its next phase. My aim will be to leave the team in a better shape than how I found it and to enhance its legacy.”
The All Blacks are one of the most successful teams in world sport and have enjoyed an 85 percent winning record since Hansen joined Henry and Smith in the coaching set-up in 2004.