Steve Hansen to step down from New Zealand job after World Cup
‘I just think that after 16 years it is the right time to move on after the World Cup’
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen will step down after next year’s World Cup in Japan. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen will step down at the conclusion of next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan after deciding the job needed “fresh eyes” after he had spent 16 years with the side.
The 59-year-old Hansen has been involved with the team since 2004, first as an assistant to Graham Henry and then as head coach from 2012, and fashioned an unrivalled record in the professional era, having won 85 of his 96 games in charge.
Hansen told a packed news conference in Auckland, that was live streamed by all major media companies in the rugby-mad country, that he had decided to make the announcement now to avoid their World Cup build-up being disrupted by questions about his future.
“I’m finishing,” Hansen said. “I just think that after 16 years it is the right time to move on after the World Cup. It is the right thing for the team.
“Fresh eyes, fresh thinking and I think that will be great in the enhancement of the legacy of the team.”
Hansen said he had not thought about his future beyond the next 12 months. Local media reported that he might take on a director of rugby role with New Zealand Rugby (NZR).
“What’s next? I don’t know. So don’t ask,” he said.
“I’m not focusing on what’s next. I’m just focusing on next year and retaining the Bledisloe Cup and winning the World Cup for a third time in a row.”
NZR chief executive Steve Tew said they might consider retaining Hansen in another role, but that conversation would not take place until after the World Cup.
Hansen had signed a contract extension in 2016 to keep him in the role until March 2020.
Yet prior to that he said he felt it was better if a coach stepped down midway through a World Cup cycle with his successor having been part of the team’s set-up.
Leading contenders to replace Hansen include Wales coach Warren Gatland, who is returning to New Zealand after the World Cup, Hansen’s assistant Ian Foster and Canterbury Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.
Joe Schmidt had been touted as a potential successor after he turned Ireland into an international powerhouse, but he said last month that he would “finish with coaching” following next year’s tournament.
“It’s not right that I sit here and say ‘that guy should do the job’,” Hansen said of a potential successor.
“That’s the rugby union’s job. I’ve got my opinions but it’s one of the few times in my life I’ll keep them to myself, because that’s what’s right for the process.”