Gregor Paul on rugby
Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Henry's book tells us nothing


The saddest thing about Graham Henry's just published biography is that it tells us precisely nothing.

His eight-year tenure as All Black head coach was enormously successful in terms of results, cultural changes and high-performance breakthroughs and yet none of this comes through.

What we have is one giant whinge and shameful claim from an event five years ago: an event that was rendered irrelevant the instant the All Blacks won the 2011 World Cup.

In beating France 8-7 last year, the All Blacks earned themselves and Henry the redemption they craved. Wayne Barnes could be ignored - left to wallow in his mediocrity ever nervous about when the IRB would get round to giving him the chop.

Henry, one of the greatest rugby brains of this or any other time, could have used his book to offer just a fraction of his insightful and analytical mind. From the comfort of his new found place as the nation's most loved pensioner, he could have been magnanimous, open, honest and accountable for the failure of 2007.

And why not? Because, that, as far as everyone else can tell, is the truth.

From the reconditioning window, to the constant rotation, to the bizarre selection of Mils Muliaina at centre and the failure to adapt tactically during the quarter-final - the All Blacks, led by Henry, were the architects of their own demise.

Henry, even if he insisted privately he wasn't culpable for the failure of that campaign, could have taken the hit publicly because he had earned forgiveness: he had proven he could recover from mistakes he made, adapt, rebuild and get it right the second time.

His courage, tenacity and skill in rebuilding the All Blacks between 2008 and 2011 were always apparent and no one would have begrudged him using his book to offer himself a pat on the back - but only after he'd acknowledged the things he got wrong in 2007.

For those who say the match-fixing claims are in there just to sell the book - get real.

No one, other than JK Rowling gets rich writing books. Certainly not in New Zealand.

Nope, the claims are in there because five years on, Henry wants to make a point that he still doesn't feel that campaign collapsed because he and his coaching team got things wrong.

The match-fixing claims aren't even new either. Henry made them casually two years ago while enjoying a bit if idle banter with a group of journalists. He threw the idea out there - but he was clearly not serious, or at least didn't appear to be. No one pressed him on it because it was so obviously an outlandish and baseless notion and yet, without a shred of evidence to support the accusation, it appears in his book.

No doubt the publishers are loving the media attention. They shouldn't be complacent, though. One grubby, nasty allegation about a referee hardly makes it a good read and the question is why did Henry bother committing to a biography that will do little for his bank account and even less for his popularity and reputation?

- Herald on Sunday

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