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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 October 2007, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
All Blacks loss ends Henry reign
Graham Henry
New Zealand have not won the World Cup since 1987
The New Zealand Rugby Union confirmed coach Graham Henry would be replaced at the end of the year after the team's shock World Cup defeat by France.

Henry took charge of the All Blacks after the 2003 World Cup, but chairman Jock Hobbs said: "We'll have a new All Blacks coach in place by Christmas."

Hobbs also revealed an independent inquiry would assess the Kiwi campaign.

Henry said: "There's no need for me or [wife] Raewyn to rush into what we'd like to do immediately in the future."

The 20-18 defeat meant that for the first time the All Blacks would not feature in a World Cup semi-final.

All Blacks legend Colin Meads had led the calls for Henry to be axed.

Meads said: "History tells us if we lose the World Cup, you're history."

Meads, who played 133 times for New Zealand between 1957 and 1971, said Henry must take responsibility for the stunning defeat at the Millennium Stadium.

He said Henry had under-prepared his squad by resting key players for most of the Super 14 season.

"Tragically, we have to say it didn't work out," said Meads.

606: DEBATE
RH

"Graham usually comes up with the answers, but he didn't this time," he said. "I think we took it too easily, to be quite honest.

"We've got this monkey on our back that we always choke at the World Cup, and that's just going to rear its head again building up to the next World Cup in four years' time.

"We'll go through the same process again. In between Cups we'll be good and then it will all come tumbling down again."

David Kirk, who captained New Zealand to their only World Cup win in 1987, agreed with Meads that Henry's coaching staff had not prepared the team well enough.

"The rotation policy has not worked the way the coaches and selectors would have liked," said Kirk.

"For all the endless hours of training and honing of different combinations they work on, some combinations simply work better than others.

"With the margin of error so fine at World Cups, it is the team management's responsibility to find those combinations and stick with them.

"I think playing the best team regularly is important. It is possible to have too much talent."

Henry was blunt when asked about his own future. "I'm pretty comfortable at 61. I don't have to worry about it. I'm not thinking about it," he said.

New Zealand scrum-half Byron Kelleher admits the defeat to France hurt even more than their semi-final defeat to Les Bleus in 1999.

Byron Kelleher
Kelleher will join French giants Toulouse after the World Cup

Kelleher, who ended his 57-Test All Blacks career in the Millennium Stadium, said: "It hurts even more.

"We're a better team than '99 and we know it.

"Personally, to never reach the pinnacle of winning the World Cup breaks me. I'm suffering and it hurts me.

"No disrespect to any of the All Blacks in that 1999 campaign, but the closeness and the camaraderie that we've got in this team is something special.

"We strongly believe we could have pulled it off and we were just two points away. It just didn't go for us on the night.

"All New Zealanders should feel the grief we are suffering. We played for our country and we're hurting that we let them down.

"All we can do is hope the nation can embrace us and understand that we're feeling the same pain within the camp."

Hooker Anton Oliver also admitted the defeat to France was a desperate way for him to end an All Blacks career that has spanned a decade

"After the game I didn't want to take my jersey off, I didn't want to leave it," said the 32-year-old.

"It's very, very difficult for me. No one wants to finish their career like this. We've bled so much for the country and the team had such high hopes.

"It feels like no man's land - and it's not a nice place to be. There has been a lot of people crying, which is not something you see very often so it is quite powerful when you see it."



SEE ALSO
Henry proud of beaten New Zealand
06 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
New Zealand 18-20 France
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New Zealand v France as it happened
06 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
French commitment delights Ibanez
06 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
Zinzan Brooke column
05 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
France 64-7 Georgia
30 Sep 07 |  Rugby Union
New Zealand 85-8 Romania
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