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Offshore Raiders Added Urgency To Coach Appointments: Hobbs

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Fuseworks Media
Graham Henry
Graham Henry

By Daniel Gilhooly of NZPA

Wellington, July 9 NZPA - The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) fast-tracked the reappointment of All Blacks coach Graham Henry and his assistants for fear they would otherwise be lured overseas.

Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith were today confirmed to coach the national team through to the end of 2011, handing them the responsibility of plotting World Cup glory on home soil that year.

NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs said haste was important as there was always the risk that one of them would sign with an overseas club or country.

"That was a factor in us going earlier to this exercise rather than later," Hobbs said.

"Individually, of course, they have their strengths but we think as a group they are a very powerful coaching unit and we did not want to lose one of them.

"It is a reflection of the high regard we hold them in and the confidence that we have in them."

The decision to extend their contracts by two years was actually made a month ago.

Hobbs said his board first discussed the issue in April and eventually concluded on June 12 that the coaching role wouldn't be made contestable.

That was a day before the first test loss to France in Dunedin.

"We thought about announcing it then but thought it was too close to that test match," Hobbs said today.

"So we subsequently decided to do it after the June internationals and in a non-test week."

Henry and the NZRU have stubbornly refused to comment on the topic for the past month.

Henry issued a muffled response when quizzed on speculation of his reappointment straight after the Dunedin test. And chief executive Steve Tew diverted journalists when asked directly about it at a press conference on June 19, saying there was still a process to go through.

Hobbs said there are "plenty" of performance clauses in the coaches' contracts but wouldn't go into details as they are private employment terms.

Hansen revealed the contracts weren't watertight through to 2011, although that was no different to what they had worked under during six years in charge.

"The expectations are that we perform and that the team performs," Hansen said.

"Can they sack us? If things don't go well, I guess they probably can."

Hobbs said the timing of the appointment wasn't hindered by the muddled performance of the All Blacks last month in home tests against France and Italy.

"We don't make these very important decisions based on one test match or one series. You have to take into account far wider matters than that," he said.

Hobbs fended off suggestions the reappointment was a straightforward one with no other coaching options in New Zealand rugby now that Robbie Deans (Australia) and Warren Gatland (Wales) had departed for international duty elsewhere.

He believed there were quality coaches at the three Super 14 franchises who reached semifinals this year -- Ian Foster (Chiefs), Colin Cooper (Hurricanes) and Todd Blackadder (Crusaders) -- while world champion New Zealand under-20 coach Dave Rennie continued to shine.


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