New Zealand 34 Australia 17: Hansen could step aside from All Blacks’ top role

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Steve Hansen expects his reign as New Zealand head coach to end when his contract expires in 2017.

The All Blacks became the first side to defend the World Cup after toppling Australia at Twickenham on Saturday in what is expected to be the final appearance in the famous strip for Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

Hansen was promoted to the top job in New Zealand rugby when Graham Henry stepped down in 2011 and suspects he will follow suit after the British and Irish Lions tour in two years.

“There’s a reason why the contract only lasts until 2017, because I’m not sure about that (his future),” said Hansen.

“I wouldn’t say ‘no’ but I’m certainly not saying ‘yes’ either. You only get 10 years for murder back home so...

“I like the idea of changing the guard halfway through a 
cycle which has a World Cup in the middle of it.

“I think when people come in, it is easy to get some really dramatic shift early on and it’s a lot harder to keep that momentum going.

“Also, for a long time, we have put everything on the World Cup as the centre, but unless you’ve got real strength of character, you can be tricked into making decisions which are right for your survival, as opposed to what is right for the team.

“I would probably say it is more likely that I won’t be there after 2017. It’s been a good trip so far and we’ve just got to finish it off.”

McCaw, who has yet to confirm his retirement from the sport, has outlined the role Hansen has played in shaping New Zealand into the most successful team in World Cup history by being crowned champions for a third time.

“When we won in 2011, Steve put a full stop on it. He inspired the belief and desire that we could do something special now, while doing everything right along the way,” said McCaw.

“Four years ago when he said we wanted to be No 1 until the next World Cup and win it again, you sort of go ‘jeepers, you’re thinking a long way out’.

“But his belief rubbed off on everyone. Steve never let complacency slip in.

“He brought in new players with energy and had faith that they would do the job.”

New Zealand are to lose the leadership core of their team and their entire midfield with McCaw, Carter, Nonu and Smith almost certainly having played their final internationals.

“A small part of you is sad that those guys won’t be seen playing for the All Blacks again, but what better way to finish?” said McCaw.

“The service they’ve given over the years is one of the big reasons this team has been able to perform in the way it has.

“We didn’t get too hung up on it being anyone’s last game because it’s more about enjoying the moment, you never get that back.

“Even now we’re not thinking about that, we’re just enjoying the moment. It’s great to be able to walk around with loose shoulders and a grin on your face.”

McCaw will continue training upon returning home – “things like going for a run, I love doing that, it makes you feel good” – but will be able to do it on his own terms.

“I’ve been really tough on myself in terms of not looking past this moment, but I’m looking forward to going home and not worrying about things,” the openside said.

“It’s just about not having that voice in the back of your mind saying to you every day ‘what do I have to do to make sure I can do whatever down the track?’.

“We have a bit of time to do whatever. That’s exciting and that’s the reward for getting the job done.

“If we did win we’d go home and do the same thing, but there would be an itch there that couldn’t be scratched.”

Australia’s coach Michael Cheika inherited a mess of in-fighting and back-biting when Ewen McKenzie felt forced into resignation just a year ago.

Utility back Kurtley Beale was an outcast when Cheika took the Wallabies helm, having been suspended following a bust-up with administrator Di Patston.

Former Leinster boss Cheika quickly jettisoned all that baggage, however, and brought Beale in from the cold for last year’s November Tests.

“He’s been outstanding on this trip, his consistency in training every day,” said Cheika of Beale.

“He’s probably been one of our best, but he’s had to mix it up between starting and being on the bench.”

Beale was a constant scourge for the All Blacks after joining the fray as a replacement at Twickenham.

Though Australia ended up well beaten the Wallabies rallied from 21-3 down to within four points before the All Blacks raced away again.