Steve Hansen’s contract with the All Blacks runs until the end of the 2019 World Cup, with much speculation that he’ll step down after that. Richie McCaw knows him well, with Hansen on the coaching team under Graham Henry when the All Blacks won the World Cup in 2011, and head coach for the 2015 triumph, but the former All Blacks captain gave no indication whether he has the inside track as what Hansen’s future plans were. A host of contenders lie in wait if Hansen does leave, including both Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and Wales head coach Warren Gatland, who are out of contract at the end of the tournament in Japan. They, and four others, were listed off by McCaw as potential successors – Scott Robertson, John Plumtree, Jamie Joseph and Ian Foster.
“I guess that does work in their favour if they have had international experience, but you have to start somewhere to get international experience I suppose. Yeah, look I guess there are a lot of for’s and against’s, you can make all sorts of arguments.” McCaw said.
“It could come down to what sort of coaching team you have, rather than one individual. It could be actually who the assistants might be and those sorts of things. I know over the years with Graham Henry and then again with Steve (Hansen) it’s actually not just the one person who is the head coach, it is the quality of the people around them that are also in the coaching team that are hugely important.
“So it might come down to those sort of things and who knows it might be some of those names that I mentioned before might want to work together, you just don’t know, which would be great if you have those sort of quality people prepared to work together.
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But pushed by RugbyPass on whom he’d pick if he had the casting vote McCaw said “Jeez, I don’t know. Look I guess the only guy I’ve really had any experience being coached under is Ian Foster and if you look at it from a continuity point of view and he put his name forward and had people around him, you’d say he’s done a pretty good job up until now so you go now, you go ‘well maybe not a bad place to start’. I don’t know it is a pretty tough one really. It’s a good tough one though.”
Speculation in Ireland that this contract with the Irish national team will be Joe Schmidt’s last has hardly quelled recently by comments IRFU’s chief executive Phillip Browne, who said that no one was “indispensable” . Schmidt has led Ireland to second in the World Rugby rankings, winning three Six Nations titles during his tenure, including the Grand Slam this year, along with a 2-1 series success over the Australia last June.
“There is no doubt that Joe is talked about (in New Zealand)… people admire what he has done with the Irish team and there is no doubt he is a good coach and at some point it would be great to see him come back to New Zealand to use all that experience and knowledge he has got and has picked up over the years to offer it back to New Zealand, whether that means he comes back and becomes a Super Rugby coach first or straight back in as an All Blacks coach.
“I guess time will tell, but there is no doubt he has done a pretty good job with Ireland and I think he is a Kiwi at heart, he’d probably love the opportunity to give it a crack.”
One of the first challenges that a new All Blacks head coach would have is a potential mass exodus of players, with Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Beauden Barrett among those linked to moves abroad post World Cup.
“It’s always a concern when you have players that potentially could still be playing in New Zealand and offer a lot there and wanted to go overseas, leave to go overseas. Naturally, we’d like them all playing in New Zealand. The reality is, everyone has got different motivations about that but I know that New Zealand Rugby are trying everything they can to encourage players to stay in New Zealand and they’re looking at ways of maybe giving – I was lucky to have a bit of a break during my career for six months – let guys, potentially, have a few months to go play in somewhere like Japan but recommit longer-term back with New Zealand Rugby.
“I think that’s going to encourage guys to keep their careers longer in New Zealand. That’s what we’ve got to do. I think it’s silly if you just put your head in the sand and just hope that people are going to commit without understanding the whole environment. You can’t begrudge people from making their own decisions as long as they’re making an informed one in what’s right for them. The only thing that New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks can do is make an environment and a setup that people find it really hard to make a decision to leave.
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