Sat, Dec 20, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Henry takes over All Black mantle as Mitchell goes


New Zealand rugby reacted with traditional severity to its World Cup failure when it sacked coach John Mitchell and replaced him with Graham Henry yesterday.

Henry, 57, first applied for the All Blacks job in 1995 but was forced overseas in 1998, having difficult stints with Wales and the British and Irish Lions. He was given a two-year deal yesterday, realizing a longtime ambition.

"My experience I think was a key factor," Henry said Friday. "I have been dreaming about getting this job for 30 years, so I've been trying to plan and get myself right for it."

Henry, a success with the Blues in the early days of Super 12, says he is a better coach now than he was before he left New Zealand.

"I think you change your style, the Welsh experience was huge," Henry said. "I was very much a cup-winning coach. Now I think I am more of a people coach. To keep your job you have to think about results as well so you have to get the balance right."

Mitchell, 38, had an excellent record in two years in charge but was left with no doubt that he was blamed for New Zealand's 22-10 loss to Australia in their World Cup semifinal last month.

He followed Alex Wyllie, Laurie Mains and John Hart, whose All Black coaching careers ended after World Cup failure.

"Clearly I'm disappointed and I congratulate Graham on becoming All Black coach," Mitchell said.

"At the end of the day I've paid the ultimate price for the loss in the World Cup semifinal."

Mitchell said he wanted to coach a New Zealand domestic team but ruled out a future attempt to coach the All Blacks.

"I believe you only coach the All Blacks once in a lifetime and the way I feel at the moment I don't expect to do it again," Mitchell said.

Henry was the first non-Briton to coach the Lions but his short tenure was clouded in controversy. The Lions lost the 2001 series 2-1 against Australia and Henry was widely criticized by his players for his training methods and approach.

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