COMMENT

For a man who has been driven by the mantra of team first for the past 16 years, it was inevitable that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen would hold himself accountable to the same standard he has everyone else.

He will stand down after the World Cup next year not because he thinks he has no more to offer as a coach. He will be moving not because he thinks he has become stale, repetitive or without good ideas.

He will be standing aside because as he has pondered his future in these last few months, he has kept coming back to the same feeling that the All Blacks would benefit from a change of coach in 2020.

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He feels, in his heart of hearts, that standing down is the right thing to do. That's what has led him to make the decision to call it quits in 12 months. He has been governed more by how he feels than what he thinks.

The difference is crucial.

He could have surveyed the landscape and thought to himself that he has at least another two years of test coaching in him.

He could have convinced himself that he's continuing to evolve as a coach, that he's flexible enough in his thinking to adapt to the next generation of players who will graduate into test football in 2020 and continue his run of success as head coach.

And he probably would have been right. He could stay on and do the job to the standards he always has.

He is, possibly at the zenith of his coaching powers and the right candidate in every practical sense to stay at the helm after the World Cup.

But as much as that is true, he doesn't feel it would be the right thing to do and hence he has listened to that voice telling him that there would be a level of hypocrisy for him to have sat in so many private meetings with some of the best players in the world and broken the bad news to them that they weren't going to be playing because it wasn't the right thing for the team to select them.

New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey speaks to the media alongside Steve Hansen at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland. Photo / Getty
New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey speaks to the media alongside Steve Hansen at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland. Photo / Getty

He has had the strength of character to realise that if he feels the same way about himself continuing as head coach – that it is not right for the team – then he must take decisive action and remove himself from the post at the end of his contract.

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That level of honesty has to be admired and respected as so few figures in public life these days have the same attitude.

How many beleaguered politicians cling on to their jobs for days, if not weeks longer than they should be trying to ride out a scandal they have no business trying to survive?

How many chief executives try to pretend in the face of adversity they have caused, that they are not damaging the value of their company and killing the goodwill of shareholders all so they can hang around long enough to collect a bonus payment?

And that Hansen is making a clean and honourable exit, isn't a surprise at all. He's been almost faultless in the role since he assumed it in 2012.

He's not only coached the All Blacks to an insane number of victories, he's raised standards in the field of personal responsibility.

He's been willing to confront issues head on and respond to the tricky moments with a transparency that has left the dirt-rakers with nowhere to go.

Effectively that is what he has done once again with this decision. He's removed himself from the storyline in World Cup year.

He's clarified his future now so as everyone can know what is happening and he can have a clear path to coach the team to what he hopes will be a history-making third consecutive World Cup.

The last thing he feels the team needs is constant questions about what their coach is up to.

Now we know and with clarity should come unification among New Zealand's rugby fraternity that Hansen, while he might not be the right man for the All Blacks in 2020, is absolutely the right man for them in 2019.