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Hansen eyes higher rugby mountains

NZN 25/07/2016

The promise of more mountains to climb has tempted Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Steve Hansen into extending his contract with New Zealand Rugby until the 2019 tournament.

Hansen's unparalleled record of 52 wins from 57 tests made it easy for the board to reach a unanimous decision, NZR chief executive Steve Tew said on Monday.

"Steve's winning record is unsurpassed in the modern era," he said.

Hansen's ability to grow the team through selection and to inspire players to reach greater heights played a key part in the NZR board's decision.

Hansen told media he had thought long and hard about standing down following the All Blacks' 34-17 Rugby World Cup final win over Australia in October last year.

"I was often get asked, why would you go back when you've climbed the mountain?" he said.

"The simple answer, as I had more time to think about it, was that I don't know if we have climbed the highest mountain.

"There are still mountains to be climbed - we can still get better, and I can still get better as a coach."

Hansen said his decision took time, as he thought it through to make sure it was right for his family, for himself and for the team.

"I had to ask a couple of questions - did I have the energy, passion and commitment to get up and drive this team the way it needs to be driven?"

The recent Welsh series, won 3-0 by the All Blacks, had confirmed that he did, and the lure of winning a third successive Rugby World Cup, at the 2019 event in Japan, provided extra incentive.

"Three in a row - it's never been done before, and it's a challenge this team will really enjoy."

Hansen, who was appointed head coach in 2012, wouldn't entirely rule on the possibility of staying on for the 2023 World Cup, pointing to 94-year-old New Zealand athletics coach Arch Jelley as an example of what was possible.

"But there's only one Arch Jelley, so I won't be coaching at 94, I can promise you that.

"It's not even worthwhile me thinking about that. I think the contract runs through to March 2020, and I'm comfortable with that.

"After the World Cup in 2019, there'll be decisions to be made."

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