All Blacks coaches swap roles - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

All Blacks coaches swap roles

By Steve McMorran 19/10/2009 11:11:02 AM Comments (0)

All Blacks coaches Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have swapped jobs in a move they hope will invigorate the team on their end-of-season tour to Japan and Europe.

Head coach Henry was previously New Zealand's chief defence strategist but will now take over from Hansen the more difficult role of forwards coach.

Hansen, a former winger, will assume Smith's role as backs coach and Smith will become defensive coach.

Henry said the job swap was recommended to the coaches by a group of five senior players who saw it as a means to provide new ideas, new voices and new challenges for both players and coaches.

New Zealand media portrayed the move on Monday as "radical" and as a "pivotal" moment in New Zealand's preparation for the 2011 World Cup, which the All Blacks will host.

Some media said the move was prompted by player dissatisfaction and was an attempt to freshen a coaching combination which had grown stale after six years in charge.

Henry portrayed the move in a more positive light, saying he was both nervous and excited about the change.

"If you're a bit nervous about it, it brings the best out of you," he said.

"It's good for me to have that challenge. I've got energy, I'm excited about that opportunity and I'll be using a lot of the knowledge of the forward pack to help.

"We discussed it at some length and the reason behind it and they (the players) are excited."

Henry said while roles would change, each coach would continue to have input on different aspects of the game. Hansen will have a say on forward play and Smith on the backs.

"We will be very tight in what we are doing in all of those roles," he said.

"We will learn from each other and it's good to experience another role in the side."

Henry's positive spin on the changes failed to fully allay perceptions they are dictated by concern about the coaches' performances in their previous roles, particularly Hansen's as forwards coach.

The All Blacks' lineout has been a constant cause of concern throughout a season in which the team has lost four of nine Tests.

New Zealand's backline, under Smith, were largely incapable of scoring tries from planned moves and set pieces, from anything other than turnovers or broken play.

Hansen, following Henry's positive line, said he was looking forward to his new role.

"It's something we talked about earlier in the year, how do we keep growing ourselves and the group, and on balance we thought this was probably the best time to do it," he said.

"We are going to need to work closely together. We aren't going to change the blueprint we have been working on for a number of years.

"We've spoken to the senior core of players and they are excited about it."

New Zealand will play Australia in Tokyo on October 31 before continuing to Europe.

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