Hansen has tough calls to make as All Blacks coach

New All Blacks coach Steve Hansen yesterday ascended to the job he had publicly coveted for the best part of a year, but he inherits a team in transition and will have tough choices to make as the World Cup winners put the Graham Henry era behind them.

The 65-year-old Henry vacated New Zealand's second most scrutinised job on 1 November, taking with him an impressive legacy of 88 victories in 103 Tests, a series clean sweep of the 2005 British and Irish Lions, five Tri-Nations titles, three Grand Slam tours and a World Cup title.

Hansen, who had been brought into the Wales set-up in 2001 by Henry and then served as his assistant for eight years with the All Blacks, has the onerous task of ensuring that legacy of high achievement continues.

The 52-year-old, however, inherits a team that is slowly but inevitably fracturing, through retirement and the ever-present lure of overseas contracts.

Much of the spine of the World Cup squad will remain intact for the duration of Hansen's two-year contract, although experienced full-back Mils Muliaina and Brad Thorn, the veteran lock, have already slipped off to ply their trade in Japan.

Hansen will be forced to make some hard decisions on several vastly experienced players whose All Blacks careers are nearing an end. Hookers Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore, prop Tony Woodcock, lock Ali Williams and centre Conrad Smith are all 30 or older, while Ma'a Nonu will reach the milestone next year. All have achieved more than 50 Test caps for the All Blacks, performing consistently well at the highest level. The major concern, though, could be the possible international retirement over the next two years of two of the greatest players rugby has seen: stand-off Dan Carter and captain and flanker Richie McCaw.

While both have committed to New Zealand rugby for another four years, injuries are starting to mount for the pair and it is doubtful whether they will still be around for their fourth World Cup in England in 2015.

Hansen will therefore need to continue refreshing the squad to add to the young players such as full-back Israel Dagg, No 8 Kieran Read and tight-head prop Owen Franks, all introduced in the last two years, and to get them ready for 2015. He will also have to judge the right time to blood promising players like Canterbury flanker Matt Todd and Taranaki fly-half Beauden Barrett and ensure that they are given time to flourish within the environment.

He is well aware, of course, that the New Zealand public will demand the same kind of success delivered by Henry; and they will want it achieved through an attractive, attacking style.

While Hansen was the only candidate put forward for an interview by the New Zealand Rugby Board, and then received a unanimous endorsement, in reality he was the only choice. Questions will no doubt be asked as to whether he was the best man for the job, or just the best man available.

Former All Blacks Warren Gatland and Robbie Deans have been locked into long-term contracts with Wales and Australia respectively, while the former Japan coach John Kirwan is highly regarded but could not fulfil the selection criteria. Candidates must have coached at the top level within New Zealand in the past 12 months, or for a total of three years, no longer than five years ago.

There was also a dearth of local experienced Super Rugby coaches, and while Todd Blackadder (Crusaders), Mark Hammett (Hurricanes) and Jamie Joseph (Highlanders) are highly thought of, it was felt they were not quite ready to step up.

Hansen is also no stranger to criticism. After taking over from Henry as head coach of Wales during the 2002 Six Nations, the team suffered a run of 10 successive losses, only broken shortly before the 2003 World Cup. He also came under fire when he returned to New Zealand to work under Henry as the All Blacks forwards' coach.

Hansen was criticised when the All Blacks line-out failed to function during the 2009 Tri-Nations, and New Zealand were beaten three times by the Springboks. He stepped away from those responsibilities for a short time before turning them around in 2010.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Passing on: George Washington died alert, aware and in his own bed. This is the kind of of death most people would like to have
health
Life and Style
fashion

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tv
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Brendan Rodgers as a manager, writes Paul Scholes
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game