Barbarians the last hurrah for Henry and Hansen

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 20/11/2011
Steve Hansen
PHOTOSPORT
LAST HURRAH: It will be the end of an era at Twickenham next weekend when Steve Hansen and Graham Henry coach the Barbarians against the Wallabies.

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It will be the end of an era at Twickenham next weekend when Steve Hansen and Graham Henry coach the Barbarians against the Wallabies.

The game will be the last Hansen and Henry will work together and will end a coaching relationship that stretches back to 2001, when Hansen went to Wales as Henry's assistant.

"I'm sure we'll have a quiet beer together afterwards and have a chuckle," Hansen told Sunday News.

"At the end of the day, it's been a great ride and I've really enjoyed my time with him.

"It started over in Wales and, really, it finished at the World Cup. What greater way to finish than to win the World Cup?"

Their test rugby partnership ended with that historic win at Eden Park. But there is next Sunday morning's game to go before their careers will finally head in different directions, and coaching the Barbarians requires a very different approach to guiding a nation to World Cup glory.

"You've got to take a relaxed attitude to it – it's a relaxed team," Hansen said.

"I've never been involved in it before but everything I've heard is that it's a very relaxed atmosphere, unlike normal test matches.

"The key thing is you've got world-class players from many countries and you've got to get yourself sorted in a very quick time because we only assemble on Tuesday.

"We need to sort out what we're going to do at lineout times, what moves we'll use – and getting to know each other is another key thing."

All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Keven Mealamu, Isaia Toeava, Sonny Bill Williams, Piri Weepu and Adam Thomson are in the Baabaas squad and will be joined by the likes of Bryan Habana, Stirling Mortlock, Stephen Jones, Danny Cipriani, Peter Stringer, Salvatore Perugini, Sylvain Marconnet, Victor Matfield, Simon Shaw, and Mauro Bergamasco in a star-studded team.

Pulling players from all corners of the globe does have its issues and Hansen says he'll look to keep things simple with the set pieces.

"Your basic things in the game have all got to be looked at," he said. "You can't make it too complicated and we need clarity, so the simpler the better.

"You grab a system you're going to use and say `right, that's what we're using, let's get into it.' And away we then go."

It has become an annual event for a Tri-Nations team to play the Barbarians at the end of each year and the makeshift side has been successful the past two years, beating the All Blacks and Springboks, and Hansen says there are good reasons why they've done so well.

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"It's a combination of a couple of things. One is that they've got nothing to lose and everything to play for.

"So there is no pressure and they can be themselves. Test rugby comes with a lot of pressure, so when playing for the Barbarians there isn't that.

"Everyone expects the international side to win and that helps the Barbarians.

"The other thing is that we were pretty much at the end of the road when we played them and invariably you play your lesser side [against the Barbarians].

"So you're playing your second stringers who need a game and haven't played in the tests. You use the game as a development tool for your international team.

"You have a bunch of world-class players against a group of young internationals and that can be the difference between winning and losing."

For a touring side, a game against the Barbarians is usually the last fixture on a month-long tour. But for the Wallabies, this is their first game on a two-match trip and Hansen says this means Robbie Deans' side will have a different approach than normal.

"They'll use it to get their test side ready to play Wales," he said. "They'll put their best side on the park and it will be different because it's at the beginning of their tour and not the end of it.

"So everyone will be excited and up for it."

After the game Hansen will return to New Zealand for his interview for the vacant All Blacks coaching role. While it's a shoo in that he'll get the job, there has been little talk about assistants.

Ian Foster looks a good bet as one of them and there are strong rumours Blues scrum coach Mike Casey will replace Mike Cron.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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