Henry issues warning over foreign influx
November 26, 2008
Henry speaks to the media following the All Blacks' training session on Tuesday © Getty Images
Graham Henry has warned England their future prosperity is threatened by the influx of New Zealanders into the English Premiership.
The All Blacks were weakened by a mass exodus after last autumn's World Cup - losing proven internationals such as Luke McAlister, Carl Hayman and Chris Jack. Remarkably, the losses have done nothing to trouble the Tri-Nations champions' dominance of the game - with victory over England on Saturday completing a third successful grand slam tour.
Henry believes England will be hamstrung by the Kiwi hordes, which he claims are denying young players the chance of gaining crucial big-game exposure. "It's about getting the opportunity to play at the top level," said New Zealand's head coach. "When you continue to fill up the Premiership with New Zealanders and the English guys don't get a chance then the national side is going to suffer. The best way is to stop all of the Kiwis coming over."
Henry could cite England's record 42-6 defeat by South Africa as evidence of a troubled team that is being let down by its domestic game. More pain surely awaits at the hands of the All Blacks, yet Henry refuses to read too much into events at Twickenham last Saturday.
Instead, the 2001 Lions coach believes New Zealand are facing the toughest opponents of their grand slam tour at the final hurdle. "The score against South Africa wasn't a true indication of the game. England wouldn't have been happy with their performance, but the score was bit off," he said. "England have traditionally been the strongest of the four nations over the last 30 years.
"They're going through a team-building process and will have been 'steeled' by what happened at the weekend. They'll give everything to play well. We understand that and will prepare accordingly. England will be the toughest game we play."
But Henry had a word of praise for Wales' attacking instincts. "Over the last couple of years, Wales have passed the ball more than any other side in the UK and Ireland - and that makes them more difficult to defend against," he said.
"The reason they won last year's Six Nations is because they have players across the park who can use the ball in their hands. The Welsh team are a more difficult team to defend against, but you never know when the wind will turn."