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The New Zealand Rugby Union have placed retaining the World Cup at the top of their wish-list over the next three years and retaining Steve Hansen as the All Blacks coach to achieve that appears a formality.
The NZRU yesterday unveiled a “Towards 2016” document in Auckland, listing six goals for success on and off the field.
They are lofty targets but the game’s administrators believe they are attainable.
And it seems Hansen will be handed the responsibility of trying to achieve the prime target.
His contract expires at the end of this year but the NZRU are almost ready to sit down and talk about his future.
The review of Hansen’s first year in the job has just been completed and will be presented to a board meeting this week. He is in a position of strength, winning 12 tests, drawing one and losing just one from his debut season at the helm.
“I think it’s reasonably obvious that we would like Steve to be at the helm come 2015 but we have to go through that process properly,” NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said in the broadest hint possible that Hansen will get a tilt at the next tournament in England in 2015 after being an assistant in 2007 and in 2011 when the All Blacks lifted the cup for the first time in 24 years.
Tew acknowledged that winning the tournament in the northern hemisphere would be difficult, something no All Blacks team had achieved. Lessons from the past needed to be learned, and that included drawing on what helped the 2011 success, again a pointer that Hansen’s experience would be a crucial factor.
The All Blacks remain the NZRU’s shop window, something that was hammered home to Tew when he was in Hong Kong last weekend for the annual sevens extravaganza. That was a chance to catch up with giant sponsors AIG who have helped the NZRU return an impressive balance sheet for the year.
It also emphasised the competitiveness of the sevens game and how much of an impact the Olympic inclusion was going to have on the sport.
And just walking around the bustling city, Tew was exposed to the influence of the game’s most famous team.
“I was incredibly amazed by the amount of All Blacks licenced product -0 both official and unofficial – that was being worn by people around that event and the city, largely by Asian people.
Tew said the United States, Japan, China and Asia in general were markets that needed to be tapped financially and for the growth of the game.
But the Asian factor was also something they were keen to explore in New Zealand, hence the emphasis that would be placed on the Auckland region where many immigrants lived.
“We identified that Auckland is unique and special,” Tew said of the opportunities available in the country’s biggest city.
The attractive Asian and Polynesian elements of the area’s population meant “a one size fits all policy won’t work,” Tew said.
He stressed that the development programme for Auckland wouldn’t come “at the expense of rugby in the rest of the country”.
Tew said New Zealand and Sanzar partners South Africa and Australia were now working towards the next broadcasting model that would play a large part in the future financial security. The current agreement runs out in 2015 and the next model would be re-designed to accommodate the growing influence of smart phones, tablets and hi-speed internet.
South Africa continue to push for a sixth and thee was every indication the discussions would be robust and lengthy.
Tew said his organisation was motivated by the targets they had set themselves.
“There are lots of opportunities with enormous challenges but we are pretty excited by the map we have drawn. We are very clear about what we want to achieve and everything is vey measurable, so we will be accountable,” he promised.
NZRU – Towards 2016
1 All Blacks go back to back at Rugby World Cups in 2015
2 Two Olympic gold medals in Rio de Janeiro in 2016
3 Rugby in New Zealand is financially healthy and well led
4 Rugby is the sport of choice in wider Auckland
5 Rugby brings communities together and is the sport of choice for teenagers
6 New Zealand rugby has a positive global presence
Who was the best-performed All Blacks forward on the northern tour?