Hansen puts head coaching aspirations on hold
AUCKLAND, 21 Oct. – New Zealand assistant coach Steve Hansen has made no secret of the fact he would one day like to be the man in charge of the All Blacks but he’s not letting those aspirations get in the way of the job that needs to be done against France in the Rugby World Cup 2011 Final on Sunday.
"All I'm planning for at the moment is winning the game on Sunday night,” he told reporters during a press conference. “Yeah, you have long-term goals but you also have to have narrow, short-term ones and right now the narrow, short-term one is the prime focus.
"That's the only thing I'm thinking about. I don't really care what happens after Sunday night, all I'm focusing on is trying to get a team ready to turn up to win.”
While fellow assistant Wayne Smith will leave the All Blacks fold at the end of the tournament to join the Waikato Chiefs, the future of Hansen and head coach Graham Henry remains unclear.
While Henry’s contract with New Zealand Rugby Union ends this year and Hansen has previously signalled his interest in the head coaching position should it become vacant, the man who led Wales to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2003 has his sights firmly fixed on the task at hand.
"It's not even something I'm thinking about at the moment,” Hansen said. “Four years ago we got knocked out in the quarter-final of a World Cup and three coaches made a decision to try and re-get the job and we did that.
“We were lucky enough to get re-appointed and last weekend we earned the right to turn up on Sunday at nine o'clock to try and win the thing.”
Following New Zealand’s shock exit in the first knockout phase of the 2007 tournament, many expected the coaching unit to be shown the door.
Instead New Zealand Rugby Union renewed the trio's contracts, a move which Hansen believes is paying dividends four years on.
“Coaches are like every day people. You learn from your mistakes and we’re not immune from them,” he said. “When you’re smart enough to learn from them, then you grow and I think as a group we’ve grown.
“It’s probably no coincidence that it’s the first time New Zealand Rugby Union has allowed the same coaching group to have a repeat at it, that we’ve been more successful than the last time. Because last time was our burden to carry, so we did learn some lessons and we’ve implemented those and a lot of them have brought success.”
As the group known as All Blacks’ “three wise men” plot for what they hope will be their greatest success on Sunday, Hansen says discussions between himself and Graham Henry about their respective futures are not on the agenda.
"We're really excited and there's no room for anything else at the moment,” Hansen said. “It's just a total focus on trying to get the team together to play really, really well because we know we're going to have to, because the French are going to turn up and play well.
"Not too many times in your life do you get the opportunity for something special to happen. You're now only doing it for yourself, you're doing it for all the people who have made sacrifices, and for our country so you've just got to make sure you get it right."
It’s been 24 years since New Zealand won a Rugby World Cup. But if the team does manage to achieve what those before them have failed to do since the All Blacks last lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 1987, Hansen says he is not to the one to determine whether the 2011 All Blacks will deserve to be described as “great.”
"Greatness is for other people to label the team,” he said. “I'm part of the team so I'm not going to sit here and say that we're a great team.
“I know that we're a good side. We play good rugby, we've got some good men and there's a good fellowship within the group. Other people will decide if it's a great team or not."
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