Graham Henry.
Graham Henry. NZ Herald - Christine Cornege

Henry steps down from All Blacks

GRAHAM Henry has stepped down as All Black coach following the team's successful Rugby World Cup campaign.

Henry took over as All Black coach in 2004 and has been in charge for more than 140 matches in a career that included a series victory over the tour British and Irish Lions in 2005, five Tri Nations titles and three Grand Slam titles.

His last match in charge of the side was the All Blacks' 8-7 victory over France in the Rugby World Cup final last month.

The 65-year-old finishes his All Blacks career as one of the most successful rugby coaches of all time: he coached the All Blacks to 88 wins in 103 tests for a winning percentage of 85.4 percent.

Henry said in a press conference today that he has no desire to coach again. However the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) is discussing the possibility of retaining him as a coach mentor for the country's leading coaches.

He said he was proud of what the team had achieved over the past eight years, saying the team had "added to the legacy of All Black rugby"

"It's been an enormous privilege to coach the All Blacks and I am exceptionally proud of how the team has added to the All Blacks legacy over the last eight years, involving 103 test matches.

"I am also exceptionally proud of how they have developed an extremely professional and enjoyable culture and environment, and how they have reached out to people of all ages and put a smile on their faces, both here in New Zealand and overseas.

"So I want to say a special thank you and congratulations to all the players who have played during this time, especially to Tana Umaga and Richie McCaw, the two long-term captains."

Henry also paid tribute and "a big thank you" to his fellow All Blacks coaches and management team.

"Wayne Smith, Steve Hansen, Mike Cron and Mick Byrne are quality men and all outstanding in their individual coaching roles."

Henry was re-appointed as All Blacks coach following the team's shock defeat in the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarterfinals to France after being backed by the New Zealand Rugby Union along with assistant coaches Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen.

Smith has already ended his involvement with the side, taking up a coaching role with the Chiefs next season, while Hansen is a contender to take over from Henry.

Henry today backed Hansen to take over as head coach saying it would keep continuity in the side.

Henry told the players on Tuesday last week in Wellington, following the Christchurch parade.

"I told them I loved them, and told them I was moving on.'"

NZRU CEO Steve Tew paid tribute to the All Blacks' performances during Henry's tenure.

"He leaves the All Blacks job as one of the greatest coaches in the game, his record is unsurpassed and while he will now get time to spend with family and friends, and the odd bit of fishing, we are delighted that Graham is still going to be involved in New Zealand rugby."

Tew said the NZRU was currently in discussions with Henry and was looking to have him involved in mentoring coaches at Investec Super Rugby franchise and provincial level.

"He has a great relationship with the country's professional coaches, as well as other coaches, and he still has so much to offer the game and it's fantastic that up-and-coming New Zealand coaches will continue to benefit from his vast knowledge."

Henry and All Blacks Assistant Coach Steve Hansen have one more coaching role this year - the duo will coach the Barbarians against Australia at Twickenham, London, on Saturday 26 November.

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