'New Zealand Rugby c**ked that up': Sir Graham Henry says Dave Rennie should be All Blacks coach
In news that will heap more pressure on Ian Foster ahead of Bledisloe II at Eden Park, Sir Graham Henry believes New Zealand Rugby "c**ked up" by not appointing Wallabies coach Dave Rennie as Steve Hansen's successor as All Blacks coach.
The World Cup-winning All Blacks coach, who led the rugby mad nation to glory on home soil in 2011, was speaking at the Wairarapa Bush Rugby Sports Award function as a special guest when he was asked whether Foster - Hansen's long-term assistant - was up for the job.
While acknowledging that it was "too early" to make the call, the highly respected coach said New Zealand Rugby had missed a trick by failing to keep in contact with Rennie, who was appointed as Michael Cheika's successor on November 20, 2019, but had been linked to the role for months earlier, after leaving the Shaky Isles in 2017 to take up a role in Scotland.
"It's too early to tell, isn't it?" he said.
"Like the All Blacks were underdone, hadn't played for six weeks, the Wallabies, their Super Rugby was much later than ours.
"Dave Rennie is a fabulous coach, no doubt. New Zealand Rugby c**ked that up. They should have been connecting with Dave and (Japan coach) Jamie Joseph and other people around the world to keep them involved in New Zealand Rugby. (But they) didn't contact Dave Rennie for three years, and Dave Rennie is fabulous, so he's going to do a great job with Australia. Whether they've got the personnel to be up there for the World Cup, I think they probably will with Dave Rennie.
"The All Blacks hadn't played for a long time and they looked like it too. They were off the pace, but I think at Eden Park they'll be chomping at the bit and I think they'll do the job. And I hope for 'Fozzie's' sake that happens, circumstantial with the virus and not being able to play and all those bits and pieces. I've avoided the question."
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Later on, however, he did not.
Asked to choose between Rennie and Foster, Henry said he would pick the Wallabies coach as his man.
"Well there you go, aye," Henry quipped.
"I talked in the media about this before and (was) asked who should coach the All Blacks and I was very vocal about Rennie.
"But Dave Rennie went to Glasgow and went and coached there after winning two Super titles with the Chiefs.
"I think he's got it all and no disrespect to Fozzie, no disrespect, and New Zealand Rugby - this is some time ago, not recently - were meant to keep in contact with players and coaches who had a big influence with professional rugby in this country and went overseas and they didn't do that. If they had done that with Dave Rennie he would have applied for the All Black job.
"I think we stuffed up quite frankly because he is a quality person and a quality coach and you've seen it straight away with the Wallabies. They will play for him, and that's no disrespect to Fozzie, that's just circumstantial, so I've answered the question."
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Making the comments all the more extraordinary is that Henry was on the panel to select Foster as Hansen's successor along with long-time New Zealand Chairman Brent Impey, new CEO Mark Robinson, head of high performance Mike Anthony and netball icon Waimarama Taumaunu.
Henry's comments come off the back of former World Cup-winning All Blacks playmaker Aaron Cruden, who told RUGBY.com.au that he was disappointed Rennie didn't get the All Blacks head coaching role.
Foster is under massive pressure ahead of Sunday's second Bledisloe Test at Eden Park following his side's slow start, which saw them come within an inch of losing their first match on home soil to the Wallabies since 2001.
The All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 and didn't lose a trans-Tasman series under the tenures of Henry and Hansen.
Foster only was presented a two-year deal to coach the All Blacks and on being named coach, an NZME anonymous survey found that almost half of New Zealand's rugby professionals did not want the former Chiefs mentor as coach.
Henry also had some advice for Foster to get his side's attack flowing once again.
"I think we're doing it (attack) the wrong way," he said, after being asked about the rushed defence that oppositions are successfully employing to halt the All Blacks' attack.
"I think we've got to go through the channels on either side of the set-piece and I don't want to get too technical here, but in the transition zones at the back of the lineout and either side of the scrum. I think we're trying to go wide, and if we can attack through the transitions and then go from there I think we'd be much better off and that overcomes a rush defence."
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Henry also paid tribute to Nic White's performance in Bledisloe I, where the halfback expertly manipulated the All Blacks' defence and exposed the home side's back three.
"I thought White was the best player on the field and he created problems for the New Zealand defence because all our nines pass off the base," Henry said.
"Aaron Smith is the best in the world at that, he's so quick at getting the ball away and that's how our game is played now. Aotearoa, Super Rugby, all the nines played that game and we haven't had a guy that darts, shows his face, stops the defence and pushes guys into gaps around them, and I thought he (White) was fantastic. And he did that in Perth, didn't he? When we got well stuffed last year.
"It's easy if the nine passes off the base - I'm sure you all understand - so that he doesn't show his face, he just passes to the first-receiver and they attack from there, that's an easy defensive read. But when the nine is running and popping things inside and guys running off him it's a much harder to control and he was fantastic.
"I thought the Aussies were pretty unlucky last week to be fair, but isn't it great for the game? Like they've been s**t for years and now they're competitive and I think that's great for Australasian rugby and our interest and I think that'll be good going forward."