Time to go, Hansen says

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen announces he will step down after  the 2019 Rugby World Cup  at the...
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen announces he will step down after the 2019 Rugby World Cup at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland yesterday. NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew is at left. Photo: Getty Images
Steve Hansen says his decision to step down as All Blacks coach after next year’s World Cup is the right decision for himself and the team he has led to new heights.

Hansen (59) announced his long-awaited decision yesterday, confirming he will leave the role after the team’s tilt for a record third consecutive World Cup crown.

He  will depart having spent 16 years as a member of the All Blacks coaching staff and success in Japan next year would cap an enormously successful eight years in charge.

Hansen does not  want to walk away. But for the three-time World Rugby coach of the year, and a man with a scarcely believable record of 85 wins from 96 matches in charge, in the end, the decision was not  a difficult one.

"I’d like to coach this team for rest of my living days, but that’s not the right thing to do.

"I wouldn’t say it was a close call, it’s just the right call."

Hansen is not tired of the immense expectation and pressure. Quite the contrary.

But  the years of public scrutiny have taken a toll  and he believed it was time he repaid his family for their sacrifice.

That, and ensure the All Blacks remain one of world sport’s most dominant teams.

"It’s right for the team to have someone new after this World Cup, some fresh eyes and fresh thinking," he said.

"Whether that’s within [the All Blacks set-up] or outside, whoever the replacement is it’ll be fresh.

"That’ll be great for the enhancement of the legacy of the jersey and that’s the most important thing."

That sentiment is reflected in Hansen’s decision to reveal his future now, so it does not  become an unnecessary distraction on the team’s World Cup quest.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew, who admits he tried to convince Hansen to stay, said that level of selflessness is one of two major legacies Hansen will leave behind.

"The special thing that makes the All Blacks different has just grown. It’s deeper, it’s more authentic.

"We still have men who make mistakes occasionally, but largely this group carry themselves outstanding well and that’s all part of Steve’s leadership.

"But what will be remembered is two World Cups, to date, 16 Bledisloe Cups, I can’t remember how many Rugby Championships and a winning ratio of nearly 90%.

"Nobody does that."

The man himself was not in the mood for reflection on his long list of achievements just yet.

Hansen said that would evoke a feeling of things being finished, which they certainly were not with  three straight Word Cup wins well and truly in his sights.

That treble would be a fitting way to go out.

Whether it would be his last achievement with New Zealand Rugby remains to be seen, with speculation of an advisory role when his coaching tenure ends.

The future beyond next year’s tournament in Japan, however, was also not up for discussion.

"I can’t tell ya so don’t bother asking, because you’ll get that answer, I don’t know.

"I’m not focusing on what’s next. All I’m focusing on is making sure we get to next year and we try and retain that Bledisloe Cup and then try and do something that’s not been done before."

Do that and Hansen will leave with his reputation with All Black fans at an all-time high.

A reputation that, as it stands with most, is already in pretty good health.

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