New Zealand All Blacks Rugby News

All Black coach Henry focused on beating Ireland and Engla



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All Black coach Graham Henry has set his focus on the month of June and is not looking beyond that until the three Tests in June have passed.

The All Blacks play one Test against Ireland and then two against England in June and Henry says that he has no other mission in mind than to steer his side to the three test victories over Ireland and England.

The selectors are not looking to build depth. They are not looking with one eye on the upcoming rule changes with a view to being clever in their selections. They are just looking to win tests.

And after that, more of the same in the Tri Nations. “Our major objective is to play well,” says Henry in the NZ Herald.

“It is going to be more competitive this year I believe. Australia and South Africa will be stronger than they have been in the past four years and Ireland are a very good team on paper and have maybe been the great underachievers. And England were in the final of the World Cup.

“So we are not looking any further ahead than that. Super 14 finishes on one Saturday then we play Ireland the next. That puts a bit of pressure on us and we will try to manage that.”

The tight turnaround is not the only source of pressure on Henry. There are, in the wake of the World Cup disaster, factions of the rugby public who need to be appeased.

Knives are out of scabbards and ready to be plunged between Henry’s shoulder blades if there is any nonsense against Ireland and England.

The national coach, World Cup aside, has an exemplary record. In four years his All Black side won 42 of their 48 tests and still there is a feeling that he is on probation.

Winning alone won’t be good enough.

The New breed of All Blacks will be unleashed in June and Henry will have to have more new faces in the team than he would have liked after many of his stars left to play in Europe.

The exodus is beyond his control so instead he’s more interested in the entry points.

“We are very lucky in this country,” he says.

“We have a very good development programme and I don’t know that that gets enough press. Our secondary schools and academies are doing an good job and we always seem to be able to produce quality players.

“There are some marvellous senior players in this country and they are great role models, great examples for the younger guys coming through. If these senior guys are going to go earlier in their careers then that gives us a major challenge.

“We don’t talk to the players about their career paths – there are channels for that. But if they want to talk to us then we are here for them. These are big decisions the players have to make about their careers. They can’t make them in five minutes.”

The next four months are not going to be easy. Henry and his All Blacks have to face a feisty Ireland side on six days’ preparation. They then have to tussle twice with an England outfit keen to impress new supremo Martin Johnson.

Then come the world champions, followed by the Robbie Deans-coached Wallabies. Through it all there will be distractions about player movements – Carter and Collins will be back-page news throughout the weekly build-up until they confirm their intentions.

There is the uncertainty about the rules. Declining viewership creating a subliminal pressure to entertain and a biting recession that will give people reason to pull their discretionary dollars away from the All Blacks.

Tough times indeed but that’s just the way Henry likes it. He has a chance to show the nations he’s still a battler. That he still has the passion to drive the All Blacks to victory.

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