Graham Henry plays down possible RFU role after standing down as New Zealand coach


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The Independent Online

Outgoing New Zealand coach Graham Henry has admitted a job in Europe would be "stimulating and challenging," but played down reports linking him with a role at the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

Henry stood down as All Blacks coach earlier today, nine days after leading them to the World Cup crown on home soil following an 8-7 victory over France.

The 65-year-old, who spent eight years in charge and ended with a record of 88 wins from 103 Tests, is in talks to stay on with the New Zealand Rugby Union as a "coach mentor" but also hinted he would consider a move to the northern hemisphere if the deal was right.

Reports last week suggested Henry was eyeing a role with England but he told Radio 5 Live this morning: "There was a wee bit of a stretch in the article.

"I would like to spend a little bit of time, not a long time because I have important family over here (in New Zealand), but a little bit of time assisting if there is a demand from a club or from a union in Europe over the next few years."

Asked whether the sporting challenge or the salary would be the determining factor, he added: "It's a bit of both to be frank, blatantly frank.

"If you are going to get involved in a club in Europe you can only do one club, that's important, and I haven't got a lot of time due to things in have to do in New Zealand.

"It would be stimulating and challenging but we will see what happens."

Henry also backed Martin Johnson to remain as England coach despite the team's shambolic World Cup campaign, which flattered to deceive on the pitch and was littered with disciplinary breaches off it.

He said: "I know Martin reasonably well as he was captain of the Lions in 2001 and he was a fabulous leader. I'd imagine he's still the same character, people don't change.

"Often we shoot our coaches because they haven't got the results but they remain the best people for the job. If Martin is the best person for the job he should be re-appointed."

At the press conference to announce his departure from the All Blacks coaching job, Henry told reporters: "It's been an enormous privilege to coach the All Blacks and I am exceptionally proud of how the team has added to the All Blacks legacy over the last eight years, involving 103 Test matches.

"I am also exceptionally proud of how they have developed an extremely professional and enjoyable culture and environment, and how they have reached out to people of all ages and put a smile on their faces, both here in New Zealand and overseas.

"So I want to say a special thank you and congratulations to all the players who have played during this time, especially to Tana Umaga and Richie McCaw, the two long-term captains."

Henry also hailed his support staff.

"Wayne Smith, Steve Hansen, Mike Cron and Mick Byrne are quality men and all outstanding in their individual coaching roles," he said.

NZRU chief executive Steve Tew paid tribute to Henry.

"He leaves the All Blacks job as one of the greatest coaches in the game," he said. "His record is unsurpassed and while he will now get time to spend with family and friends, and the odd bit of fishing, we are delighted that Graham is still going to be involved in New Zealand rugby."

Tew revealed: "He has a great relationship with the country's professional coaches, as well as other coaches, and he still has so much to offer the game and it's fantastic that up-and-coming New Zealand coaches will continue to benefit from his vast knowledge."