Not exactly the best kept secret in the game, but then little is kept covered up in the modern times of Twitter and beyond. The NZRU confirmed though this morning that former Wales boss Steve Hansen is to become the new national coach, and will lead the All Blacks over the next two years.
It’s safe to say that Hansen has bided his time in waiting for the top job, having been Graham Henry’s assistant since 2004. Part of the excellent World Cup winning triumvirate, with Wayne Smith the other member, Hansen has made clear that he will only operate with one assistant, most likely to be a backs coach given his work in charge of the forwards over the last seven years.
With regards to previous examples of assistant coaches who have taken over following World Cup success, the immediate and perhaps only one to study is Andy Robinson. Following Sir Clive Woodward’s departure from the RFU in 2004, he struggled. With ageing stars and young blood not stepping up fast enough, and also without Jonny Wilkinson for his entire reign, Robinson’s record does not read well with 13 losses from 22 games.
Where Hansen is better off is the fact that only a certain number of All Blacks involved with the success at the Rugby World Cup will be moving on. Of the squad, only Brad Thorn & Mils Muliaina have officially retired, whilst Conrad Smith, Andrew Hore, Ali Williams and Tony Woodcock are the only players in the 22 that won the final who are the wrong side of 30. Whereas England went searching for replacements for their elder statesmen, the All Blacks already have them ready and raring to go. The likes of Israel Dagg, Ben Franks, Sonny Bill Williams, Jarrad Hoeata and Anthony Boric are all ready to fill in the gaps.
That Hansen will also keep the core of his World Cup winning side makes his job a lot easier. Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu and Ma’a Nonu all remain in New Zealand. The young crop of Israel Dagg, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Sam Whitelock and Owen Franks still have perhaps a decade of international rugby left in them. Great for Hansen and his backroom staff. Ominous for the rest of the world.
by Ben Coles