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Friday, November 5, 1999 Published at 09:30 GMT

All Blacks coach Hart quits

All Blacks: Forced to qualify for World Cup 2003

John Hart has resigned as All Blacks coach after the side's disastrous World Cup campaign.

John Hart: "I had decided it was time for a change"
The news follows the 22-18 defeat by South Africa in the third place play-off at the World Cup on Thursday.

But far more costly to Hart was the shock defeat to France in last Sunday's semi final.

The All Blacks were favourites to win the tournament before their Twickenham nightmare.

[ image: John Hart: Autocrat with many enemies]
John Hart: Autocrat with many enemies
Hart, who has been doing what is perhaps world rugby's most high profile job for the past four years, will remain in his post until a successor is found.

Thursday's loss to South Africa means that the All Blacks will have to play a series of South Pacific minnows to qualify for the next World Cup, which New Zealand co-hosts with Australia in 2003.

In Cardiff on Friday, Hart revealed that he had decided not to seek an extension to his contract even before Sunday's humiliation.

"It's not an easy decision to step down because, although we haven't won the cup, I believe we have an excellent team," said Hart.

"I've shared many wonderful moments with the All Blacks over the last four years and I will treasure those."

BBC Wales Correspondent Wyre Davies: "The big worry for Welsh rugby fans is what happens to Graham Henry"
Hart, who was a co-coach of the All Blacks in 1991, took over from Laurie Mains in December 1995 and was in charge for 42 matches, winning 32 with nine losses and a draw.

His autocratic, businesslike style brought him as many enemies as friends.

[ image: South Africa took third place off the All Blacks on Thursday]
South Africa took third place off the All Blacks on Thursday
He admitted it had been a difficult job at times in the face of "intense public scrutiny" at home.

"I've had four years, we've won the Tri-Nations three times and we've had some wonderful times," said Hart.

"But it's a very demanding job coaching the All Blacks - it's one that takes its toll."

Hart has decided to cancel a family holiday in Hawaii in order to face his critics back home before deciding his future in the game.

"I believe I have more to offer but I've taken no decision on that," Hart said.

"I need a holiday and some space and we will see what is round the corner but I'm not afraid of the future.

"I believe it is really important for me to face the New Zealand public after what has happened. I understand there has been a tremendous amount of flak flying."

Decision before year's end

New Zealand Rugby Football Union chairman Rob Fisher said a decision to appoint Hart's replacement would be made before Christmas.

Hart is backing two members of his current coaching team, Peter Sloane and Wayne Smith.

But the annnouncement in Cardiff has raised fears in Wales that Graham Henry may be tempted from his job with the World Cup hosts to return to his homeland.

All Black selector Gordon Hunter and England assistant coach John Mitchell have also been mentioned as possible successors.

The names of Super 12 coaches Tony Gilbert, Frank Oliver and Ross Cooper have also been put forward.

And former All Black players Grant Fox, Wayne Shelford and Graham Mourie are the subject of speculation among the depressed New Zealand public.

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