(Adds Hansen comment on assistant in eighth paragraph.)
Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- New Zealand hired Steve Hansen as head coach, promoting him to the top job after Graham Henry stepped down last month following the All Blacks’ drought- breaking Rugby World Cup victory.
The New Zealand Rugby Union said its board unanimously decided to appoint Hansen on a two-year contract after interviewing him today. The 52-year-old former Wales coach had served as one of Henry’s two assistant coaches for eight years.
During that time, New Zealand won 88 of its 103 elite Test matches -- an 85 percent success rate. As well as guiding the All Blacks to their first World Cup triumph since 1987, Henry and his assistants oversaw five Tri-Nations titles, three so- called Grand Slam sweeps of the U.K. and Ireland and a 3-0 series rout of the British and Irish Lions in 2005.
“I feel humbled and proud to be given the opportunity to lead the team into its next phase,” Hansen said in an e-mailed statement. “My aim will be to leave the team in a better shape than how I found it and to enhance its legacy.”
Henry stepped down Nov. 1, nine days after the All Blacks defeated France 8-7 in the World Cup final in Auckland, saying that he’d “had enough.” He endorsed Hansen as his successor, saying that continuity was crucial in elite rugby.
“You learn a lot by being in this position and if you have complete change of the coaching team you lose that,” Henry said Nov. 1. “You have to start from scratch again so I think Steve Hansen should do the job. It does give us continuity from what’s happened over the last eight years.”
NZRU Chairman Mike Eagle said Hansen’s appointment would allow for a “seamless transition.” The support staff will be named as soon as Hansen’s preferred main assistant completes negotiations with the NZRU, Eagle said.
While he was part of a coaching trio dubbed the “three wise men” by local media, Hansen said he opted for just one main aide after assessing the available personnel.
“I would loved to have had two if we’d had the dream team people available,” Hansen said at a news conference. “But doing the research I did in trying to get this team together, it became obvious and clear that wasn’t the case. So the team’s needs were better suited by one and one.”
Henry to Hansen
It’s the second time Hansen succeeded Henry as a national team head coach after taking the Wales job in 2002 when Henry resigned 3 1/2 years into a five-year contract.
Although Wales lost 20 of its 31 matches during his tenure, including a national record run of 10 straight defeats, Hansen was credited with helping to professionalize Welsh rugby.
Hansen left that post after the 2004 Six Nations tournament to join the All Blacks setup alongside Henry and Wayne Smith, during which time he mostly coached the forwards. Smith wasn’t available for the All Blacks top job after taking a role with the Chiefs Super Rugby team.
Hansen’s coaching career began with Canterbury, whom he helped to New Zealand provincial championships in 1997 and 2001. He was assistant coach of the Crusaders Super Rugby team during title-winning seasons in 1999 and 2000.
Hansen has been “a key part of a hugely successful All Blacks team” since joining the coaching staff, Eagle added.
“He has huge respect and backing from the team and his peers and is the right man to now lead the team,” he said.
--Editors: Dex McLuskey, Chris Bourke
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