Applications for the All Blacks coaching position closed on Friday, with chief contenders to be interviewed over coming weeks. NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said that “several” applications had come in for Graham Henry’s old job, though the process is widely considered a fait accompli, with Hansen a sure thing to step into the main role after serving eight years as Henry’s assistant.
Tew would not confirm who else had put up their hand up for the job, but it’s expected John Kirwan’s name was among the applications received. The former Italy and Japan coach and 1987 world cup-winning All Black has also expressed an interest in the England role.
But with Hansen a cast-iron certainty for the top job, it’s thought that most serious contenders have decided that it would be foolish to stand against the long-term assistant who has Henry’s emphatic endorsement.
Tew would not reveal any specifics of the interview process but it is understood that Hansen is set for an interview on December 15, with the NZRU aiming for a December 22 deadline to announce their decision.
“We’re very keen to have this all done by Christmas,” said Tew yesterday. “You can’t guarantee that until you get the process under way and start talking to the various individuals. But that is the goal.
“As soon as we’ve made a decision and got someone, we’ll announce it. It’s not a secret you can keep long in this country.” Chief interest in the process will be who emerges as Hansen’s assistant coaches, with former Chiefs mentor Ian Foster, All Blacks skills specialist Mick Byrne, and long-time Hansen confidant Aussie McLean said to be among the possibilities.
Tew confirmed that the successful head coach would not necessarily get his preferred men signed off, and there was a possibility that applications could be called for the posts.
“Each of the candidates who have applied have been asked to indicate who their preferred [coaching] team would be and what structure they want.
“Last time we appointed a coach in 2003, Graham came with a commitment for Wayne [Smith] and Steve to join him. On the basis of that there wasn’t a contestable assistant coach process because that was as close to the dream team as we thought we could get.
“This time round that might be the case, but we think it’s less likely given what we suspect is going to be in those applications. We’ll be having that conversation with the head coach and have to come to agreement where we either agree with what they want or we agree a process to follow that the head coach is comfortable to commit to.”
Meanwhile, Tew has played down speculation out of South America that an Argentine team is being lined up to join Super Rugby to further strengthen links with the Sanzar countries.
Argentina enters an expanded Tri-Nations competition in 2012 that has been renamed The Rugby Championship. But Tew, just back from a trip to the South American country, said it was too long a bow to draw to suggest Super Rugby inclusion was imminent.
“It was mentioned at the press conference, but it was more a media discussion than a realistic one. Right now we’re concentrating on bringing them into The Rugby Championship.
“We have designed the Super Rugby competition so we can expand, so who knows what will happen in the future. But until 2015 we’re locked and loaded with what we’re doing.”
Tew said there was a real buzz around Argentina over their inclusion in the new competition and he was confident the country would do a good job of hosting their three home matches. Buenos Aires is expected to host at least two of them.
– Sunday Star Times