Will Henry regret his Pumas exercise?

IAN SNOOK
Last updated 05:00 13/09/2012
Graham Henry
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ

REGRETS? Former All Black coach Sir Graham Henry at practice with the Argentineans.

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OPINION: What do you do after spending eight years preaching loyalty, honesty, commitment, and churning out any number of young men who have developed in to better All Blacks?

You set about demonstrating that you are still smarter than those you left behind by operating from a different set of values.

What happened to the special "All Blacks Club and culture" that evolved during this period?

To maintain and stimulate his ego, or maybe it is his random sense of humour, Graham Henry has found the ultimate toy. He has become the world's leading "virtual" rugby coach; he is coaching against himself! Like a war-game fanatic he has set up the utopia of all challenges, the "virtual test match" where he is endeavouring to outdo his own strategies and tactics.

He is the modern day Sun Zi, the greatest Chinese war philosopher. And, just as Sun Zi wrote: "It is through information gained from double agents that the situation of the enemy can be known." Henry has quickly filled this double agent's role.

One assumes that he felt the Argentinians could not win, and deep down we all hope he didn't want them to win, but here was a chance to make a difference without causing long-term damage. It's a pity he was not in the box during the test match so that we could have observed his quirky smile, or the "little arm raise" when those aspects he had introduced were subtly causing headaches for the mighty All Blacks. And there were plenty of them.

The defensive screen was an obvious Henry ploy as it inevitably had the necessary numbers and pounced with venom and ferocity for the majority of the game. Hopefully he was relieved like the rest of us when the All Blacks finally broke through in the last quarter, no doubt just as he had planned.

No coach in the history of international sport has wielded so much power and influence. He is the conductor over all he surveys and we are all part of his fantasy as we argue for and against his new position as "World Virtual Coach No 1."

The problem I perceive is that he has jabbed and hooked those who have been the closest to him - for eight years his most loyal allies. Although the Argie infantry doesn't possess the same firepower as the ultimate Adidas Elite Unit, by being their new military adviser he must suffer the consequences of any double agent; glory within the new camp and resentment from those he previously led into battle.

It is not the general public he has scarred and injured but the group who remained loyal even after the 2007 failures. It is that group he needs to reassure of his integrity as he continues with the Blues. This surely is not about money so it must be about coaching. If so, North Harbour is right on his back doorstep.

Just as he wrote in his book that he regrets having coached the British and Irish Lions who toured Australia, he will surely add an appendix that he has made another mistake. He never wanted the All Blacks to lose even one test under his guidance and I'm sure that Steve Hansen is the same.

■ Ian Snook has coached professionally for the past 25 years in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, Japan and Italy.

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