As the New Zealand Herald puts it, “Keeping an open mind was the key to Steve Hansen landing the All Blacks job.” A simple observation of this appointment, but definitely appropriate in the circumstances. Many would expect that after landing the coveted prize of World Cup glory, particularly having a part to play as a coaching assistant, Hansen would be content to retire from international rugby, or just remain in a similar position to the one he previously held.
Stepping into the head coach’s shoes is no easy task, especially of such a nation that holds rugby in such high regard. His track record as a head coach does not read so well, having had a real patchy attempt as Wales head coach during the early part of the millennium. However, some would say it was the team he had formed in those years, which Mike Ruddock then took onto Grand Slam success during the 2005 Six Nations.
…given his chance to shine,
People in New Zealand finally have something to cheer about; there is no pressure on Hansen to instil some new regime of better rugby. They have already proved they are the best. And added to that, his contract has only been signed for a two-year term, so he won’t have the pressure of leading a team in the build-up to a world cup. It’s very much the impression that he is being given his chance to shine, and if it doesn’t work out then, so-be-it.
Hansen is very much a post-world cup victory option. Following a World Cup victory, a nation has the joy of revelling in their achievement, essentially elevating them to a plinth, reducing the pressure of success imposed by public consciousness, and so reducing the normal pressure felt by a new head coach. The ‘relaxed’ period it should be known as. Look at England after their world cup win; they spent the next two years playing atrociously, with no aim in sight, and all because the ultimate prize was already theirs. There are no major incentives for much change or alteration. The second-in-command moving up a role seems a perfectly suitable choice.
…always been the most entertaining,
New Zealand are very unlikely to follow England’s example, falling down in terms of standards, for they have always been the most entertaining, most destructive, most all-round wonderful rugby team to watch. The appointment of Hansen as head coach will never change that exuberance and beauty they display as a rugby nation. As mentioned, Hansen is the most suited. Plus, why not give the guy a chance? He’s been the wing-man for so long. Now it’s time for him to make the moves. “Keeping an open mind” they said; and if you’re an adoring, triumphant, rugby-led nation, then why wouldn’t you?
Images courtesy of Steve Hansen