Steve Hansen has confirmed he will step down as New Zealand’s head coach following the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Hansen, who succeeded Graham Henry after the All Blacks’ 2011 World Cup triumph, made the announcement on Friday in Auckland, ending persistent speculation over his future.
New Zealand have not yet identified a replacement for Hansen, who believes his departure will allow the team to move forward after next year’s tournament.
“After being involved in the All Blacks for 16 years, I do feel it’s right for the team for me to stand down,” Hansen said.
“I think change after the Rugby World Cup will bring a new outlook for the team and it’ll be time for someone else to enhance the legacy of the All Blacks.”
The 59-year-old – a four-time winner of World Rugby’s Coach of the Year award who served as Henry’s assistant for seven years before stepping up to the role of head coach – is set to leave huge boots to fill.
He oversaw a successful defence of the World Cup in 2015, while New Zealand have won the Rugby Championship in every season of his tenure bar one and triumphed in 85 of their 96 Tests under Hansen.
“After being involved in the All Blacks for 16 years, I feel it’s right for the team for me to stand down. I think change after the Rugby World Cup will bring a new outlook for the team and it’ll be time for someone else to enhance the legacy of the All Blacks.” – Steve Hansen. pic.twitter.com/cwfMpBmFKz
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) December 13, 2018
Explaining his decision to announce his departure in advance, Hansen added: “This is a critical process which shouldn’t be rushed and shouldn’t be made in the turbulent period that tends to follow a Rugby World Cup campaign.”
All Blacks chairman Brent Impey described Hansen as a “New Zealand rugby legend” as he thanked the coach for his efforts.
“On behalf of the New Zealand Rugby Board, I’d like to thank Steve for his enormous contribution to our national game,” Impey said.
“He’s hugely respected, clear in his views, and will leave the job as one of the greatest ever All Blacks coaches. His record is unsurpassed.
“The All Blacks currently hold all the major trophies we play for, he played a critical role in the back-to-back-Rugby World Cup victories in 2011 and 2015, and we wish him and the team all the very best for next year’s campaign.
“Whatever happens next in Steve’s career, his place as a New Zealand rugby legend is guaranteed.”
Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt, the respective coaches of Wales and Ireland, have previously announced they will also depart their roles after next year’s World Cup.
Schmidt said last month he will “prioritise family commitments” when he leaves Ireland, but the New Zealander nevertheless remains among the leading candidates to succeed Hansen, along with All Blacks assistant Ian Foster, Dave Rennie and Gatland.
KEO.co.za News wire is powered by opta