Henry's rugby lessons

England moving in the right direction, says Graham Henry

Last Updated: 04/12/12 10:59am

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Graham Henry talks to skysports.com about the All Blacks loss to England, Argentina and lessons for the Lions!

" However they will go away and come back with a new hunger -this side is still an exceptional side and you have to look at what they achieved over all their games, not just one game - it will hurt though, it will hurt for a long time"
Graham Henry Quotes of the week

The former New Zealand coach who led the All Blacks to World Cup success last year was impressed with England's victory over his former side and says they deserve all the credit they get.

"England played outstandingly well and deserves huge accolades," said Henry.

"I was very impressed with them. Let's not take anything away from England. The All Blacks had won every game apart from one draw in the last 18 months, so a loss is going to happen at some stage.

"The All Blacks will be disappointed but they didn't prepare as well as they should have, they probably got a wee bit complacent as it was the end of a long year. They were vulnerable. I am not a rugby coach anymore and am not coaching the All Blacks to beat these teams - I don't spend the time watching the games like I used to. However I did watch them against Wales and thought they played well but really deteriorated towards the end. I did think there was some vulnerability there.

"If I was still in the changing room there would be very little I would be saying to the team - they know what happened and will be very disappointed. However they will go away and come back with a new hunger - this side is still an exceptional side and you have to look at what they achieved over all their games, not just one game - it will hurt though, it will hurt for a long time.

"Next June is a fresh start though - they will have a different psyche and will be ready to go. They will be playing France in New Zealand which is easier than playing England at Twickenham at the end of a season where they played 30 games."

Henry, who was in the UK to promote his book 'The Final Word' and his coaching website - the rugbysite.com - has been in huge demand since he masterminded New Zealand's World Cup triumph.

And while he is not coaching a national side, he did play a vital role in helping Argentina find their self-belief in their first year of the Rugby Championship.

"I have been impressed with Argentina, the set-up is very good and the players really want to learn. I think one of the coaches' major jobs is to live, walk and talk and expect standards," he said, "both on the rugby field and off the rugby field. It has to become part of the psyche.

"You have an expectation of that group of people and you need to consistently push that expectation out to them and tell them that they are outstanding - they may not be outstanding but they may go from 40 to 60 per cent on how they are playing that game.

"There are some challenges ahead for Argentina, though. Their players mainly play in the northern hemisphere so that means they will be playing all year round. Their clubs are getting frustrated and rightly so because they are never available. There are problems that need to be fixed. It's a tricky situation, maybe they need to have some flexibility in the Super Rugby competition to allow Argentina players to play in that comp.

"There is a law that each team can have two foreign players per team and perhaps some of the Australian teams and the new South African franchise can use that. Over time professional rugby has to happen in Argentina - get at least two teams playing in the Super Rugby competition. That is the future and may happen after the next World Cup."

Lions Lessons

Just as players have learnt from him, Henry admits that he has had some painful coaching lessons along the way and has urged Warren Gatland not to make the same mistakes he made on the Lions tour to Australia.

Gatland is the second New Zealander to coach the British and Irish Lions, after Henry led the party in 2001. That tour saw the tourists go down to a 2-1 series defeat after three combative Tests that were overshadowed by a split in the camp following accusations of discontent in the camp.

"When I coached the Lions I was a very inexperienced coach in 2001," added Henry.

"Warren is in a much better position than I ever was because of his experience. He has spent a lot of time over in this part of the world; coaching Ireland, he coached Wasps and is now coaching Wales. He knows the score.

"I ran into him at a social function last week - we know each other very well, for 20 years. I said to him that I mucked it up - I did not involve the players' knowledge in how we played the game. I told him not to make the same mistake as me - I know he won't though, he is far too experienced for that."

With England finishing their Autumn campaign on a high and France also in fine form, Henry is relishing the Six Nations - and believes Wales, who he coached 1998 until 2002, could get over their seven-match slump.

"Welsh rugby has been known for its peaks and troughs - it is part of the Welsh psyche," added Henry, who led the All Blacks to World Cup success last year.

"It seems as if they need to get down to rock bottom before they go again. They were superb in the World Cup and maybe this autumn has been a bit of a blip and they got ahead of themselves. They played Argentina and Samoa and I think their heads were in the All Black basket. When they did play the All Blacks they were tactically naive and did not go for the points on offer. However I do think that there are signs that they will come again.

"The Six Nations will be interesting - I have watched a bit of France and I think they are the best side in Europe right now - England will question that after their performance against the All Blacks. It's good for rugby and it's good for the Six Nations."

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