Steve Hansen said he has been given the “greatest honor” in rugby when he was named head coach of World Cup champions New Zealand yesterday.
The former All Blacks assistant coach had been widely tipped for the top job after Graham Henry retired last month and fellow assistant Wayne Smith took up a coaching consultant role with Super Rugby’s Waikato Chiefs.
Hansen, who has been awarded a two-year contract, said he was proud to have been given the job.
“In this sport it’s the greatest honor you can receive,” the 52-year-old told reporters at New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) headquarters.
“It comes with a huge amount of responsibility and all I can say is that I’m passionate about rugby, passionate about New Zealand, passionate about the All Blacks jersey and its’ legacy, and I look forward to the next two years with this team and taking it forward and enhancing that legacy,” he said.
The former Canterbury midfield back, who has carved out a niche as forwards coach, was the only candidate put forward for formal interview at the NZRU board meeting yesterday.
The NZRU said they were in negotiations with people who Hansen had identified as preferred members of his coaching staff, but would not reveal their names.
Hansen said there would be only one assistant coach and various specialist coaches.
Former Chiefs coach Ian Foster and Aussie McLean, who was an assistant for Samoa at this year’s World Cup, had been reported by local media as being in the running to act as his assistants.
Hansen cut his international teeth as Henry’s assistant at Wales in 2001 before he took over as head coach during the 2002 Six Nations when Henry quit and returned to New Zealand.
He guided the side to the 2003 World Cup quarter-finals, but quit the job in early 2004 when Henry took over at the All Blacks and asked Hansen and Smith to join him.
The trio won 88 of their 103 Tests together, culminating in the 8-7 victory over France in the World Cup final at Eden Park on Oct. 23.
Hansen said the challenge of maintaining that momentum would be his first task when the All Blacks host Ireland in a three-Test series next June.
“If you look at the rugby World Cup, teams [that win it] have struggled [afterward] and that is what makes it [the job] so exciting,” Hansen said. “It was a magnificent thing that we achieved, but this is a new team, a new group of people and we have to make our own history.”
“There will be changes because there are new personnel involved, but it would be foolish to change too much because they’re not a bad side. They’ve won a few games over the last eight years,” he added.
“So that tells me what we have been doing hasn’t been too bad and that continuity of me going from assistant to head coach allows us to have an understanding of what has been successful,” Hansen said.
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