Hansen leaving with legacy intact, despite All Blacks horror show
Yokohama (Japan) (AFP)
Steve Hansen may have failed in his quest to deliver New Zealand a third consecutive World Cup, but he will step down having cemented his place in All Blacks history as one of the most successful rugby union coaches of all time.
The 60-year-old leaves a record most coaches, in any sport, can but dream of: ahead of next week's third-place play-off it stands at a staggering 92 victories from 106 Tests, with four draws and just 10 losses.
That gives Hansen a 85.9 percent winning ratio and under his tenure the All Blacks lost to just Australia (four), Ireland (two), South Africa (two), England (two) and the British and Irish Lions (one).
Hansen, a straight-talking coach never afraid to shy away from tough selection calls, said he was "desperately hurting" after the 19-7 semi-final defeat by England.
"Having been here in 2007, it's disappointing, there's nothing you can say about that," said Hansen, who was Graham Henry's assistant when the All Blacks lasted tasted World Cup defeat in the 2007 quarter-finals.
"The difference was that (against England) we stepped up to the plate and got beaten by the better team.
"No loss is easy to take. But there's no shame in getting beaten by them."
England coach Eddie Jones was full of praise for his old adversary, against whom he first coached back in 1997 when he was in charge of the Brumbies and Hansen the Crusaders.
"He's a great coach," Jones said. "He's a great rugby man and will go down as one of the best All Black coaches.
"He's going to be missed from the game, although I know he's coming back here to coach at Toyota, so their cars will be running a bit faster!" Jones added, hinting at Hansen's possible next step.
- Welsh adventure -
As a player, one-time policeman Hansen was a centre who played 21 times for Canterbury, going on to become assistant coach to Wayne Smith and Robbie Deans at the Crusaders.
He moved on to Wales to take over from Graham Henry, who returned to New Zealand, and from 2002-2004 oversaw 30 games with Wales with 10 victories and 20 defeats -- a far cry from his ratio with the All Blacks.
A shift back to his native New Zealand saw Hansen work as assistant to Henry, helping to oversee World Cup victory on home soil in 2011, but also involved as the All Blacks were eliminated by France in the 2007 quarter-finals.
Hansen inherited the full-time job from Henry after the 2011 tournament and there followed a purple patch in the run-in to a second successive World Cup title in England.
In that time, Hansen won four world coach of the year awards (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016), coinciding with six world team of the year awards for the All Blacks between 2012-2017.
Current assistant coach Ian Foster, a front-runner among the candidates to succeed Hansen, said whoever took over the All Blacks would be under no illusion of the demands of the job.
"It has always been one of the great challenges of sport how you keep growing the group that is performing well," Foster said.
"I guess that's part of the All Blacks story and we feel pressure to keep writing that. We know the expectations and pressure upon us every time we play. It's a matter of getting used to that. We don't always get it right."
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