It’s been an action packed week for New Zealand rugby with Ben Smith announcing he’s off to France and Nehe Milner-Skudder also en-route to Europe. With a press conference called for 9am (NZ Time) was All Blacks coach Steve Hansen about to bring some good news or confirm that he too would be on his way.
In typical laid back Steve’s fashion, he simply said,
The 59 year old whose contract is due to expire at the end of the 2019 World Cup will have been part of the All Blacks coaching ticket for 16 years. Prior to taking the head coach role in 2012 he worked as the assistant coach to Graham Henry.
“I just think that after 16 years it is the right time to move on after the World Cup. It is the right thing for the team. We can have a fresh pair of eyes come into the team,” said Hansen.
Hansen added, “It’s been a huge privilege to be part of the All Blacks for such a long time and I’m really looking forward to, and excited by the challenges, of the next 12 months. We’ll be attempting to do something that has never been done before – to win three consecutive Rugby World Cups. I’m highly motivated by that, as is the whole group, and we’re really looking forward to it.”Embed from Getty Images
Hansen felt it was important to make the announcement about his future now so that New Zealand Rugby had plenty of time to identify his successor.
“This is a critical process which shouldn’t be rushed and shouldn’t be made in the turbulent period that tends to follow a Rugby World Cup campaign.”
Hansen said he hadn’t made any decision on his future at present and his focus was on preparing for the 2019 season.
All Blacks Chairman Brent Impey has lead the tributes to Hansen.
“On behalf of the New Zealand Rugby Board, I’d like to thank Steve for his enormous contribution to our national game. He’s hugely respected, clear in his views, and will leave the job as one of the greatest ever All Blacks coaches.
“His record is unsurpassed. The All Blacks currently hold all the major trophies we play for, he played a critical role in the back-to-back-Rugby World Cup victories in 2011 and 2015, and we wish him and the team all the very best for next year’s campaign.
“Whatever happens next in Steve’s career, his place as a New Zealand rugby legend is guaranteed,”All Blacks Chairman Brent Impey
New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said Hansen had overseen “one of the richest periods in All Blacks history.”
“On his watch the All Blacks have had a winning rate of close to 90 percent – a remarkable run of sustained success”
“As well as his success on the field, he will also be remembered for his bold selections and the way he and his management team provided the opportunity and environment for the players to achieve their full potential on the international stage.
“He cares deeply about the game and the wider issues facing it and his views are hugely respected not only in New Zealand but internationally.
“On behalf of New Zealand Rugby, we congratulate Steve, his wife Tash and his family on his contribution to New Zealand Rugby – and the contribution he’ll continue to make in 2019 – and we all look forward to what next year will bring.”
Without doubt, there will be a few names bandied about as potential successors with Joe Schmidt, Ian Foster and Scott Robertson already being mentioned. One thing that is for sure is that whoever gets the gig will have a tough act to follow.
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.