MANCHESTER - Departed All Black Luke McAlister has backed coach Graham Henry to remain in charge of the New Zealand rugby team.
Henry has been told by the New Zealand Rugby Union he must reapply for his position following the team's shock quarterfinal exit at this year's World Cup.
McAlister, who played in four of the All Blacks' five games, believes the players were at fault for their World Cup failure - not the coach.
McAlister believes Henry and his coaching team of Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith, are the right men to take the All Blacks forward.
"I don't know what he wants to do, but he's a great coach and the whole coaching staff was outstanding throughout the three years I've been a part of the All Blacks," he said.
"They're very knowledgeable and I don't think you can judge them on why we lost that quarterfinal - it was more the players rather than the coaches but the public and the media have to blame someone.
"They're an outstanding bunch of guys and if they do stay, I'll be pretty happy with that."
Henry, 61, has confirmed he will consult Hansen and Smith, as well as selector Sir Brian Lochore, before deciding whether to reapply.
Applications must be submitted by November 26 and the NZRU hopes to name the new coach by the end of the year.
"He's getting on a bit now so probably wants to enjoy life outside of rugby, but if he was to reapply, I think he should get the job," McAlister added.
Henry and his team presented their defence to the NZRU's review committee on Wednesday and to support their case they are thought to have used video evidence highlighting mistakes by referee Wayne Barnes during the All Blacks' quarterfinal defeat.
McAlister, playing at second five-eighth, was sin-binned by the English referee and admits the 20-18 defeat by France is too painful to watch.
The 24-year-old utility back accepts that the All Blacks came up short but believes Barnes' performance hindered their cause.
"I haven't seen the game and I don't really want to," he said.
"Hey, we didn't win, but we gave it our best shot. There's no one that didn't give it their all and that's all you can ask of a team.
"I'm not one to blame the ref but he did make some shocking calls. But that's rugby, you can't control the ref, you can only control what you do."
McAlister was speaking after being unveiled by Sale Sharks, signing a two-year contract with the English Premiership club.
That effectively rules him out of All Black selection until late 2009, and although McAlister believes more New Zealand players will be heading to the northern hemisphere, he supports the NZRU's policy not to select overseas players.
"The lucrative offers over here are pretty big and if they do 'relax' that, they're going to lose a lot of the young players," he said.
"For me personally, it would be good if you can be an All Black while playing over here, but for the good of New Zealand rugby, I don't think they should do it and I don't think they will."