Henry and co safe

The New Zealand Rugby Union has come to the defence of their embattled coaching trio in the wake of consecutive losses to the Springboks.

At Saturday’s after-match press conference, Graham Henry and backline coach Wayne Smith stood by their reckless game plan, which was executed with little skill. They said that was the best possible way to defeat the Boks.

The pair, along with forwards coach Steve Hansen, had their contracts renewed before the Tri-Nations, but now there has been the expected public outcry after two away losses. The trio’s contracts were up for extension at the end of this year, but the NZRU made the decision midway through.

Neil Sorensen, GM of Professional Rugby, backed this move.

‘The NZRU and the board decided we wanted to create some certainty for the players, support staff and others around the All Blacks,’ Sorensen told Radio Sport.

The reason cited was their overall record, but with three losses out of six this year and notably no World Cup, the pressure mounts before that tournament in 2011 in New Zealand.

‘These guys have got a fantastic track record, they are world-class and the key thing was to get a decision out early and get some certainty in the environment. We have total faith that these guys are going to be the best to take us through the next … it’s only 22 months.

‘We don’t want to change these guys now. We think certainty is the key thing to have.’

Sorensen said the coaches would be the first to take the blame if poor results and performances continued.

‘Anything’s possible,’ he said. ‘Even the guys themselves if they had a shocking year and everything started to disintegrate … they’d be the first to put their hands up and say things aren’t tracking well and maybe we should be reviewing it.’

Sorensen said it could be viewed as a positive that the All Blacks weren’t dominating – as they usually do between World Cups – but was concerned about the lack of public interest in a ‘rugby-mad country’.

‘I don’t think it’s such a bad thing we’re under an immense amount of pressure at the moment,’ added Sorensen. ‘If we’d breezed through the June internationals like southern hemisphere teams tend to do and won the Tri-Nations again like we’ve done in the past, it might not have uncovered some flaws that might be there.

‘We are aware that there’s a softening of general interest in this part of the game at the moment, and our own research backs that up,’ he continued.

‘We’re doing everything we can to say to fans “how do we reconnect with you guys?” We understand that this is an issue.’