STEVE HANSEN will lead the All Blacks’ attempt to retain the Rugby World Cup after extending his coaching contract until after the tournament in 2015.
Hansen was originally appointed for two years following the departure of Sir Graham Henry after the 2011 success, and his reappointment is no surprise after a strong first year in charge.
The extension will allow him to fully concentrate on developing a core of players capable of winning the World Cup.
“We have to make sure we don’t just consolidate. Last year was a good year, but we have to keep moving forward and growing our game to stay in front,” he told Fairfax NZ.
“It’s well publicised we have an ageing leadership group and it’s been that group who have been able to make the big decisions; the right decisions in the big moments in critical test matches.
“There are a lot of people in the group who want to be in the World Cup squad and some of them aren’t going to make it.”
Players who may struggle to keep their high standards for another few years include Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore, Conrad Smith, Tony Woodcock and Ma’a Nonu, and even Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.
Hansen said they could not be half-hearted about bringing in a new leadership group.
“This is where we need to be really bold. It’d be easy to just stick with the older guys, but I think we need to look to the future and look at some of the younger guys,” he said.
“Without naming names because we haven’t named the team, that’s the approach we’ll be looking at.
“It will be guys who may not have played 50 or 60 tests. It might be someone who has only played four or five or under 20, but by the time they get to the World Cup they probably will have played quite a number.”
Form would be the key.
“That’s the million-dollar question. When do you do it? And when do you shut the dream off for some of those older guys?” he said.
“Some of those guys will make it, some won’t.
“We need to do due diligence on our selection processes and have the conversations we need to have. It’ll become obvious when we need to make changes.”
“We’ve got quality players leaving and they have aspirations of coming back. [I’ve got] no problem with their leaving and no problem with them coming back. We’ll open our arms wide,” he said.
“The issue they have is they are going to a competition [Japan] that doesn’t have the same intensity as Super Rugby or the All Blacks and they’re giving someone else an opportunity to step into their jersey, and that’s pretty dangerous.”