Hansen confirms departure

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The Independent Online

Steve Hansen confirmed yesterday that he will stand down as the Wales coach after next year's Six Nations' tournament, bringing to an end two turbulent years in charge of the side.

Hansen took charge of Wales when Graham Henry resigned halfway through the 2002 Six Nations' campaign and always maintained he would return home to New Zealand when his contract expires in April.

"The circumstances of wanting to go home haven't changed," Hansen said. "From the outset I made it clear that I would do the job for two-and-a-half years and that remains the case. My main objective was to try and improve the team and leave those things in Welsh rugby that I have some control over in a better shape than I found them. The fact that there are signs that we are moving forward hasn't changed that either."

Wales have won nine of 26 Tests under Hansen, and suffered a whitewash in this year's Six Nations'. However, his side enjoyed an encouraging World Cup. "We made a lot of progress," Hansen said, "but there is still a lot of work to be done. We showed the type of rugby we want to play in those last games. Hopefully we have got people in Wales excited about rugby again and that will help push things forward again."

Before coaching Wales, Hansen guided Canterbury to the National Provincial Championship title in 1997 and 2001, and also helped Canterbury Crusaders to win the Super 12 title twice.

The Welsh Rugby Union's chief executive, David Moffett, said the search to find a successor will start before Christmas. Gareth Jenkins, the Llanelli coach, and Newport-Gwent's Mike Ruddock will be seen as the leading candidates.

* The New Zealand coach, John Mitchell, whose contract ended with the third-place play-off win over France and who has been asked to reapply for the post, is said to have been offered a coaching job in France. An unnamed French club has reportedly offered him £350,000 to lead them into France's top division next season.

* The Australia captain, George Gregan, is expected to continue his international career next season, the head of the Australian Rugby Union, John O'Neill, confirmed yesterday. He said Gregan had indicated he would sign up for another season, and claimed that the Australia coach, Eddie Jones, would see out his contract, which has a year to run.