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Hansen named new All Blacks coach

Updated: December 15, 2011, 23:18

WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) Steve Hansen was named the new head coach of the All Blacks on Friday, filling the spot vacated by Graham Henry after he led the squad to victory at the Rugby World Cup in October.

Hansen, 52, has been Henry's assistant coach since 2004. He also succeeded Henry as Wales coach when Henry was dismissed from that position in 2002.

Hansen, who was given a two-year appointment, was among a short list of candidates for the job. Vern Cotter, a New Zealander currently coaching the French club Clermont Auvergne, was the only other applicant to make his candidacy public.

"I feel humbled and proud to be given the opportunity to lead the team into its next phase,'' Hansen said at a news conference Friday after the announcement was made by the New Zealand Rugby Union. "My aim will be to leave the team in a better shape than how I found it and to enhance its legacy.''

Although Hansen was the only candidate interviewed by the rugby union board and his appointment was widely expected, he said the vetting process was thorough and intensive.

"This is a great sporting team. One of the greatest in world sport and you wouldn't expect it to be an easy process,'' he said.

The rugby union had indicated after Henry's departure that it wanted to ensure continuity with its new hire.

The 65-year-old Henry, who stepped down days after leading the All Blacks to their first World Cup victory in 24 years, had coached the squad for eight years, winning 88 of 103 tests. New Zealand won the Tri-Nations tournament five times and achieved three Grand Slams against the northern hemisphere Home Unions during that time.

Last month, Henry dismissed speculation linking him with the vacant England job, saying he was done with top-level coaching. He is expected to take up a coach mentoring role with the New Zealand Rugby Union instead.

Union chairman Mike Eagle said that promoting Hansen "allowed for a seamless transition'' from the Henry coaching era and "the chance to build on the team's current outstanding record.''

"(Hansen) is an outstanding coach and has been a key part of a hugely successful All Blacks team since becoming an assistant coach,'' Eagle said. "He has huge respect and backing from the team and his peers and is the right man to now lead the team.''

Eagle also said Hansen's preferred coaching team had also been unanimously approved by the union board and will be named later. Hansen indicated he will likely have only one assistant.

"I'm confident and extremely happy with the people that I've chosen and I think they can do a job for New Zealand,'' he said.

Hansen began his coaching career with Canterbury province, winning New Zealand's National Provincial Championship in 1997 and 2001. He was also assistant coach of the Canterbury Crusaders team that won Super 12 titles in 1999 and 2001.

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