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'Like a superpower': The difference between Henry, Hansen and Foster

By Ned Lester
Steve Hansen (right) with Ian Foster. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

After a historic first-ever series loss to Ireland on home soil in 2022 was followed by the first-ever defeat to Argentina at home, New Zealand’s “golden era” looked to be officially in the past. The 2010s were as dominant of a decade as modern rugby has witnessed and that era was spearheaded by a trio of coaches who graduated from being each other’s assistants.


Sir Graham Henry’s tenure as All Blacks head coach could have been short-lived and remembered only for the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals loss to France. But instead, the loss sparked a historic winning period that would see the All Blacks become the first side to ever win back-to-back World Cups.

One man who has been there through the entire process is All Blacks manager Darren Shand. Shand is one of the many long-term All Blacks staff who will see out 2023 as their final year with the team and reflected on his time alongside some of the game’s great coaches.

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“I started in 2004 with Sir Graham,” Shand told The Platform. “I didn’t even know him, I was so scared of him and I was actually his boss. That was the role they’d given me. We sat down for lunch and I said ‘How’s this going to work Ted?’ And he said ‘Darren, I just want to coach, you sort out everything else.’ We shook hands and agreed to work together.

“The thing I loved about Ted (Sir Graham Henry) was that he was a pretty experienced coach when he came in but he was brave enough to hire Smithy (Wayne Smith) and Steve (Hansen) who were, you could say his equal as coaches.

“What I’ve learned is that when you can have people pushing you from below, you just become better. So I really admire Ted for that, that was huge. Ted still had his way to some degree but the fact that he had two individuals there that were really outstanding coaches in their own right was pretty special.


“Steve, I just loved his instinctiveness, he just had a knack, it was almost like a superpower where he could, I remember Smithy would spend hours on the computer after matches analyzing it and Steve would just watch a replay for 10 minutes and have the same answer. He was so good at that. Particularly with people, he had that sort of sixth sense.


“And Foz, I really admire what Foz has had to go through, he couldn’t have had a more difficult period of time to have to deal with all the external stuff. Covid, everything’s just not been normal. He’s held himself remarkably well through all that and he’s kept our group together, he’s kept us going and I tip my hat to him for that.

“I want to stand by him and give him the success that he deserves this year.

“They’re all very different. The thing I’ve found with coaches is their upside is unbelievable, their downside can be really challenging and there’s often a bit of a grey bit in the middle.”

Although Foster’s contributions as head coach have not seen the success of his predecessors, his influence during the 2010s is what saw him rewarded with the top job.

Shand emphasised the importance of losing the 2007 quarter-final, noting the amount that was learnt from the loss and how it inspired the ensuing dominance. He was also on the board following the 2007 loss and was proud to have stuck with Sir Graham Henry despite also interviewing Robbie Deans.


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Jmann 408 days ago

There is no doubt it was the most successful team that rugby has ever seen. Arguably that 'sport' has ever seen.

G 408 days ago

Great servant but Shand lost every crucial coin toss!

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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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