All Blacks coach Steve Hansen to quit after World Cup

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will step down after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, ending a 16-year involvement with the world’s top-ranked team.

Hansen, 59, said at a news conference Friday it is important that a new coach takes charge after the World Cup to “bring a new outlook for the team” and “enhance the legacy of the All Blacks.” He said he has no immediate plans other than to spend more time with his family.

After replacing Graham Henry as Wales’ coach in 2002, he left that job in 2004 before serving as an assistant to Henry with the All Blacks, then replaced him again, this time in New Zealand, in 2012.

An assistant during New Zealand’s 2011 World Cup victory — its first in 24 years — Hansen guided the team to a win in the 2015 World Cup in England.

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The All Blacks have played 96 test matches under Hansen, winning 85, losing eight and drawing three for an 88.5 winning percentage.

“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. “As only people who have done the job will understand, there are not only heavy demands on yourself but also on your family. My family has given me unreserved love and support over the last 16 years and I feel it’s now time to make them the sole focus.”

No team has won the Rugby World Cup three consecutive times, and Hansen and the All Blacks will have a chance to be the first to do so when the event begins in Japan in September.

“I’m highly motivated by that, as is the whole group, and we’re really looking forward to it,” Hansen said.

Hansen believes it is necessary to make his intentions clear as early as possible in order to give New Zealand Rugby time to make a thorough search for his successor. Ian Foster, his longtime assistant, and Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and Wales coach Warren Gatland are thought to be candidates.

“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,” Hansen said.

There has been speculation that Hansen will move into a new role as director of rugby, but New Zealand hasn’t previously had such a position — and some see it to be detrimental to have a new coach supervised by his predecessor.

“I haven’t thought about what I will do after the World Cup,” he said. “It is such a great privilege to coach the All Blacks and I am focused on nothing more than the next 12 months as we have an incredible opportunity to do something that no other team has ever done before.

“I have no regrets about making the decision and feel good about it.”

New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey thanked Hansen for his “enormous contribution to our national game.”

“He’s hugely respected, clear in his views, and will leave the job as one of the greatest ever All Blacks coaches,” Impey said. “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.”

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