Rugby Union: Hart finally appointed New Zealand coach

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The Independent Online
John Hart, one of the coaches who bad-mouthed England during the 1991 World Cup, belatedly realised a lifetime's ambition yesterday when he was appointed New Zealand coach at the fourth time of applying, writes Steve Bale.

As it was also his 50th birthday, the former Auckland coach had a double cause for celebration, the main one being that this is a professional appointment which, according to reports which the new appointee has denied, is worth up to a performance-related pounds 86,000 a year.

"Rest assured it is not the figure that is being touted in the press," Hart said, although he declined to reveal the exact amount. "I guess I'm an adage that if you try, try, try again, you might finally get there."

His first task as successor to Laurie Mains, whom he has sometimes bitterly opposed, is to prepare the All Blacks for the most arduous year in their history, including two Tests each against Australia and Scotland, one against Western Samoa and an extraordinary five against South Africa.

"If ever there was a reason not to stand, it was when I saw the itinerary. I guess that's part of the challenge," he said. Among the other contenders was Maurice Trapp, the Englishman who succeeded Hart as Auckland coach in 1987 when the provincial side - for whom Hart played 26 times at scrum- half in the late Sixties and early Seventies - were in the middle of the greatest period in their history.

Hart previously lost votes to become All Black coach to Alex Wyllie in 1988 and Mains in 1992 and a year ago, though he was a national selector from 1987-91 and was imposed on Wyllie as co-coach during the 1991 World Cup, when the relationship between the two was never better than extremely tense.