Henry sees basic plan as means to fix shortcomings

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The Independent Online

New Zealand rugby chiefs announced what most people already expected when they presented Graham Henry as the new All Blacks coach in Wellington today.

The press conference was delayed by 15 minutes due to a fire alarm, but there was nothing alarming about the news that Henry was picking up one of world sport's toughest jobs.

And he immediately set out his basic plan: Fix the line-out and fix the kicking game. Not exactly rocket science, but better than the famously vague 'Journey' of outgoing coach John Mitchell.

"Our line-out is a bit flaky, but the All Blacks coach can't get that right by himself in a short period of time," said Henry, showing he has learned something in his tenures with Wales and the British Lions about not setting expectations too high.

"I look at our kicking too," he said.

"When I was playing everyone used to kick off both feet. Our kicking isn't great - a lot of our young backs aren't great kickers of the ball."

He didn't address defence specifically, but twice in an interview with TV3 he pointed out that it had been his main area of responsibility with Auckland in the past two seasons.

Expect the All Black backs of the coming seasons to provide fewer imitations of policemen waving traffic through.

Henry would not tolerate such displays, having become one of the most successful coaches in New Zealand since first taking up coaching in 1973.

His last two years with Auckland have brought him two NPC titles and the Ranfurly Shield, while he has also helped the Blues take the Super 12 crown.

In 1998 he took on the Wales coaching job, which he quit at the start of 2002 in deeply controversial circumstances.

He did well initially, turning the Welsh around, but the 1999 World Cup campaign was a failure and his appointment as the Lions coach for the 2001 tour proved his ultimate undoing.

His treatment of many Welsh players on that tour caused rifts when he returned to coach Wales in the 2001-2002 season. After a 54-10 thrashing by Ireland in Dublin he resigned.

But now he is back, determined to prove he has learned from his mistakes.

He told TV3 that on the Lions tour he had become "too results-oriented" and lost the confidence of his players as he tried to impose too much structure on their game.

As a veteran of working with the New Zealand style, he is unlikely to make that same mistake with the All Blacks.

"I think that style of play suits the New Zealand mentality. We have talented, skilful, athletic players who like playing a high tempo game," he said.

And he is keen to rally people behind him.

"We all have to work together: The high performance centre, the Air New Zealand NPC and Rebel Sport Super 12 coaches," he said.

"We all need to work together to address the problems we have in the game."