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International

Steve Hansen makes decision on his future

All Blacks head coach has made a decision.

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Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

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, 

“I’m going”

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.”

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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.

International

Englishman Invited to Play for Barbarians

A former England international has been called upon to play for the Barbarians and it could cause quite the stir

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Joe Marler has been asked to play for the Barbarians against England in the Quilter Cup on June 2nd.

The Harlequins prop announced his retirement from the Red Roses last November having won 59 caps for his country.

However, this time around he will play against the men in white and admits it is something he never thought would happen.

“Playing for the Barbarians is something I never thought would happen so I’m really excited to be involved — it’s a bit of dream come true. I’ve played against them for England, most recently last year, but it didn’t cross my mind that I’d get an invitation so I’m delighted to have been approached,” he said.

Although Marler is excited to be part of the team he is also a little nervous about being on the opposite side this time around.

“I’m really looking forward to running out at Twickenham again but there’s also a bit of trepidation about walking into the Barbarians team room. It’ll be like the first day at school when you’re setting out to make a good impression. I know a few people like John Afoa but I’m sure I’ll have to win the others over!” he added.

Following the news that England’s first choice prop Mako Vunipola will undergo surgery on a torn hamstring ahead of the World Cup later this year there were calls among the England faithful for Marler to reverse his retirement decision. Meaning that his performance against England will be of particular interest.

Marler joins an exciting group of players to have been confirmed for the Baa Baas with Charles Piutau John Afoa, Steven Luatua, Malakai Fekitoa, Rhys Webb and Facundo Isa already among the stars to be announced.

However, Pat Lam’s invitation to Marler is the most intriguing of all the selections so far.

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6 Nations

Leinster Star Considering Options as IRFU Talks Continue

Leinster could be set to lose another club legend with the IRFU playing hardball on a new contract

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Rob Kearney is looking into all options with his current IRFU contract due to expire after this year’s World Cup

The Ireland and Leinster full-back was missing from Leo Cullen’s list of blues players that have signed new contracts ahead of next season.

Kearney’s manager Dave McHugh has confirmed that discussions are continuing with the IRFU and that the player would like to remain with Leinster.

“Discussions are ongoing with Leinster and the IRFU. We had hoped to have reached a conclusion by now. The discussion is live and open. But it has led us to check other options. We are still hopeful of reaching an agreement with the IRFU and Leinster,” he said.

It is believed that at least two French teams are weighing up the signature of Kearney, where he would earn a massive salary compared to his current contract with McHugh admitting that the money has a part to play.

“The IRFU has made Rob an offer. But if I am honest, it is well below where it needs to be – well below. It has been a little protracted. We are struggling to get it to a point where it makes sense for him,” he added.

At 33, Kearney is nearing the twilight of his glittering career but both he and McHugh want him to continue playing while he is still well able.

“It is Rob’s goal to continue playing rugby while he is fit and healthy and well. He is a starter both for his country and for his province. We need it to make sense for him. We appreciate there is an end point to his rugby playing career. But it isn’t yet,” he said.

With 21 contracts being announced yesterday McHugh explained that Kearney was absent as there isn’t the same urgency in his talks as there has been with other players.

“Rob is contracted to the end of the World Cup, so I guess we’re not in the same rush that Leinster were to announce their 21 new contracts for the start of next season. He wouldn’t return to the province until after the World Cup, so there isn’t the same urgency from our perspective,” he concluded.

Kearney’s future has been under much speculation for some time now and there was fuel added to the fire when teammate Sean O’Brien posted a possible farewell message on his Instagram.

O’Brien himself leaves for London Irish come the end of the season and unless the IRFU budge in Kearney’s discussions it appears as though Leinster could lose yet another one of their most decorated players.

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International

Australian Legend Calls Time on Sensational Career

One of Australian Rugby’s greatest players of all-time has pulled the curtain on a glittering career

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(Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Australian flanker George Smith has announced his retirement after 20-years of playing professional rugby.

The 38-year-old confirmed the decision after his short-term contract with the Bristol Bears expired.

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle thanked Smith for his time in the game and noted how big a star he was.

“On behalf of the Australian rugby community I extend my congratulations to George on what has been an amazing career. George belongs in that rare category of player that could turn the course of a game in an instant with a crucial turnover, a powerful run or a big defensive play. He was universally respected by his team-mates and opponents and has been a huge presence in the clubs he has represented all over the world, as well as on the international stage with the Wallabies,” he said.

Capped 111 times at international level the Wallaby had spells with Bristol, Wasps, Suntory in Japan, Lyon, Stade Francais, Toulon, the Brumbies and Queensland Reds during his club career.

General manager of the Classic Wallabies and former teammate Justin Harrison acknowledged how good a player he was to play alongside.

“On behalf of the Classic Wallabies I pass on our congratulations to George on his remarkable rugby career. I, like many, had the great privilege of playing alongside George and I knew every time you played with him you knew you were playing alongside one of our greatest players and hairstyles,” he said.

He went on to welcome the legend to the Classic Wallabies team while also taking time to point out the impact Smith had on the game.

“George has inspired a whole generation of Australian rugby supporters to pick up a ball and play the game. We are richer for having had the opportunity to witness George playing in a gold Wallaby jersey. We now welcome George to the Classic Wallabies and we ask that he keeps one pair of boots for his first Classics capped match,” he added.

Smith managed to pick up two Super Rugby titles with the Brumbies along with 164 Super Rugby caps between his time with them and the Reds. Before it all began Smith was at Sydney side Manly where he was signed from by Eddie Jones in 1999 for the Brumbies and Smith remembers the day well as well as being thankful for the chance he was given.

“I’m grateful for his advice and friendship. The day I rocked up to sign my first Brumbies contract with dreadlocked hair, board shorts and thongs [flip-flops], I think back and shake my head as to why he didn’t just turn me away right there and then,” Smith said.

During his 12 years with the club he picked up 10 Players’ Player of the year awards, as well as two Wallabies Players’ Player of the year awards and will be remembered for everything he brought to the game.

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