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Henry Clear To Plot World Cup Path

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Graham Henry
Graham Henry

Wellington, July 9 NZPA - Preparation for the All Blacks' next assault on a rugby World Cup begins in September according to coach Graham Henry, confirmed today to lead them in 2011.

Henry and assistants Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith had their contracts extended by two years, handing them another crack at the tournament that has bedevilled New Zealand rugby since the All Blacks' sole triumph in 1987.

While it was a considerable surprise when the trio were reappointed after the failure of 2007, there were no eyebrows raised at today's extension.

With Robbie Deans now coaching the Wallabies and Warren Gatland with Wales, Henry and his henchmen were the only logical options to challenge for world supremacy on home soil in two years.

Fronting media after All Blacks' training in Wellington today, 63-year-old Henry said the drive to win a World Cup and atone for 2007 was strong.

His mind could now switch into World Cup mode, something that would happen very soon.

"Once this Tri-Nations is over we need to be thinking quite a bit about that," he told NZPA.

"Your thought process looks forward to two years' time."

The Tri-Nations needed full attention because of the new-look nature of Henry's current team, who had struggled through last month's tests against France and Italy.

"A third of the side is playing their first year of All Black rugby and we just need to get our feet under the table and get comfortable with that group of people," he said.

"And once that has been achieved, I think we can look ahead a bit more."

Henry described his reappointment as a "huge privilege" and one which seemed a world away in the aftermath of the disastrous quarterfinal loss to France at Cardiff two years ago.

"After the World Cup, I don't think any of us thought we would continue," he said.

"But after our review and the support of other people and support of the guys we coach, we decided to carry on.

"We managed to do reasonably well last year, we've got major challenges this year obviously and we're building quite a new side.

"And there's obviously challenges on the horizon."

The trio's tenure will stretch to eight years, comfortably an All Blacks coaching record for longevity.

While the 2007 World Cup remains a massive disappointment, Henry has guided New Zealand to comfortably the best record of any team in international rugby since 2004.

Their 57 wins from 66 tests gives them an 86 percent record. Over the same period, world champions South Africa are next best with 47 wins from 70 tests (68 percent), followed by Australia (63), France (62) and Ireland (61).

In that time, the All Blacks have also defended the Bledisloe Cup five times, won the Tri-Nations four times, achieved a clean-sweep of the British and Irish Lions in 2005, and won two Grand Slams in 2005 and 2008.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw welcomed today's news, which he said would provide "certainty" for the players and a co-ordinated approach to the World Cup.

"You only focus on one campaign at a time but you can build on it and you know you've got 2-1/2 years to keep building on what we're doing," McCaw said.

"For this team to keep performing the way we have, it's nice to know we've got the same crew that are going to lead that."

 

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