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New Zealand 8-7 France, Rugby World Cup, October 23, 2011
NZRU's Henry gamble pays dividends
ESPNscrum Staff
October 23, 2011

The All Blacks' Rugby World Cup Final win over France completed a remarkable four year turnaround for coach Graham Henry.

After a heartbreaking quarter-final loss to France in the 2007 tournament, Henry was forced to re-apply for his job amid calls for then Crusaders boss Robbie Deans to take the helm. However, the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) kept their faith in Henry and the decision has paid dividends as the William Webb Ellis cup is back in New Zealand for the first time in 24 years.

"People make decisions, and I was lucky enough to be reappointed," Henry said. "I just feel really thankful to the guys who reappointed this group of people.

"I think far too much time in sport people are replaced because they don't get the right result, and quite often they're very good at what they do. I am not saying I am, but quite often they are, and they just need another chance and then you get good results.

"Look at some of the coaches around the world. They're pretty mature people. We are probably too quick to shoot the coach because a team hasn't produced at the World Cup previously or got a big result.

"What the NZRU did in 2007 was a difficult thing for them to do, but maybe it was the right thing to do. Maybe we've learned from that. I wasn't going to re-stand after 2007. But from the reaction of the players, they wanted the current coaching panel to continue. That is why I re-stood."

While the All Blacks were much-fancied to life rugby's biggest prize in previous World Cups, Henry's men were under huge pressure in front of a home crowd in Eden Park.

"We put a lot of pressure on the players to perform week in and week out in Test matches," Henry said. "This was our 12th Test match in 14 weeks, and there are big demands made by the three of us for Richie and his team to perform.

"Part of the deal is you've got to hang in there because those are the situations that you learn from. I learned more from the 2001 Lions tour [when Henry was head coach] than anything I'd been involved in. That is the beauty of continuity that people continue to be involved, rather than a wholesale clean-out and start again. How do you learn from that?"

And with Martin Johnson's future as team manager of England facing scrutiny, Henry's name has been mentioned as a potential replacement. But Henry distanced himself from the post for the meantime saying: "I think that would be a divorce. I will just enjoy today, I think, and the next few days."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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