THE Graham Henry-Robbie Deans 2011 World Cup showdown is virtually confirmed and will be decided on their home soil.
Henry, the New Zealand coach, said yesterday that, despite public criticism following his team’s embarrassing departure from the 2007 World Cup at the quarter-final stage, he wanted another chance to win the Webb Ellis trophy when the tournament is held in New Zealand in two years’ time.
Henry’s coaching contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union expires at the end of this year, and it was anticipated he would then hand the head coaching position over to his assistant, Steve Hansen.
But yesterday he told Kiwi media he wanted to continue and lead the All Blacks to the next World Cup. "It’s not my decision," Henry admitted. "I’d like to continue, but that’s other people’s decisions. Let’s wait and see, I guess. I’m sure the [NZRU] have given it some thought, but it’s early days, isn’t it?"
If Henry is granted his wish – which is highly likely, considering he has strong support at NZRU level – it will add an extra dimension to the tournament, as it will mean he has to out-manoeuvre the man many New Zealanders believe should instead be masterminding the All Blacks’ campaign.
Despite Henry’s failure in 2007, he held on to his job ahead of Deans, the highly successful Crusaders coach who was then appointed Wallabies coach. That angered many All Blacks supporters, who believed the best coach in their country was now in charge of their Trans-Tasman enemy.
Deans masterminding a Wallabies World Cup triumph over Henry on New Zealand soil would only add to their pain.
Dean is already planning to have the Wallabies based in the South Island, an area he knows intimately, during the tournament, while two of Australia’s four pool matches will be staged in his home town of Christchurch.
When asked about this year’s Super 14, Henry said it had convinced him the aerial work of many Kiwi players needed attention, and that Australia and South Africa were better in that area.
Henry said he believed the reason Australian players were adept in taking the high ball was because of their Australian Rules background. This contention would surprise the four Australian provincial coaches, as only a small handful of their Super 14 squad members have played Australian football.
Meanwhile, Wallabies winger Peter Hynes has overcome a knee injury to return to the Reds line-up to play the Brumbies in Brisbane on Saturday night, when he could find himself up against Test skipper Stirling Mortlock.
Although Mortlock is eager to play in the centres, Brumbies coach Andy Friend is expected to today name him on the wing, where he began his Wallabies career, while Gene Fairbanks and Tyrone Smith are set to be the Brumbies centres combination.
¡ Sydney referee Stu Dickinson has been appointed to officiate the third South Africa-British and Irish Lions Test in Johannesburg on July 4.