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October 20, 2009

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All Blacks coaches swap jobs

ALL Blacks coaches Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have swapped jobs in a move, dictated by senior players, they hope will invigorate the team on its end-of-season tour to Europe and through the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Head coach Henry was previously New Zealand's chief defense strategist but will now take over from Hansen the more difficult role of forwards coach; Hansen, a former winger, will assume Smith's role as backs coach and Smith will become defensive coach.

Henry said the job swap was recommended to the coaches by a group of five senior players who saw it as a means to provide new ideas, new voices and new challenges for both players and coaches.

New Zealand media portrayed the move as "radical" and as a "pivotal" moment in the Kiwis' preparation for the 2011 World Cup, which it will host. Some media said the move was prompted by player dissatisfaction and was an attempt to freshen a coaching combination which had grown stale after six years in charge.

Henry portrayed the move in a more positive light, saying he was both nervous and excited about the change.

"If you're a bit nervous about it, it brings the best out of you," he said. "It's good for me to have that challenge. I've got energy, I'm excited about that opportunity and I'll be using a lot of the knowledge of the forward pack to help.

"We discussed it at some length and the reason behind it and they (the players) are excited."

Henry said while roles would change, each coach would continue to have input on different aspects of the game: Hansen would have a say on forward play and Smith on the backs.

"We will be very tight in what we are doing in all of those roles," he said. "We will learn from each other and it's good to experience another role in the side."

Henry's positive spin on the changes failed to fully allay perceptions they are dictated by concern about the coach's performance in their previous roles, particularly Hansen's as forwards coach.


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