Former All Blacks coach and renowned rugby tactician Wayne Smith says mental health considerations should play a significant part in the process to pick Steve Hansen's successor.

Smith, who is coaching in Japan after stepping down as Hansen's assistant in 2017, said creating a healthy team environment was central to modern rugby and must be a strong part of any aspiring All Black coach's plans.

Current All Blacks assistant Ian Foster, Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, Jamie Joseph (Japan), and Dave Rennie (Glasgow) are believed to be the front-runners to replace Hansen, whose seven-year tenure came to an end with the World Cup bronze medal victory against Wales earlier this month.

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"It's hard to sit here and say one or the other," Smith told Newstalk ZB's Martin Devlin in an interview to be aired on Saturday.

"I think a lot of emphasis will be put on the coaching team. There will have to be some questions answered about current structures versus freshness.

"There's a conversation to be had around an environment that caters for mental health. I've read a lot of stuff around some of the players becoming vulnerable, dealing with mental health issues through opening up and talking every day to each other.

"I think more and more that's something that has to be dealt with."

Winning was no longer the only indicator of a successful team, Smith said.

"At my club Kobe, we started what we call a flourish programme. Winning is not enough anymore. You get instant euphoria from winning championships and it lasts a short time.

"You've got to be really cognisant of that and make sure you have environments with grit, resilience and happiness … all those things that are contagious in small communities. You need to create that within your team.

"Accomplishments come on the end of that. That's one of the questions which should be asked on the panel."


Premium gold

Smith - a man revered by scores of top players - applauded the inclusion of netball icon Waimarama Taumaunu on the panel that will pick the next coach.

Other panellists are former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry, NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson, and NZR Head of High Performance Mike Anthony.

"It doesn't have to be only rugby people – there are a lot more arts to coaching," Smith told Devlin.

"A player would be good but knowing the NZR processes, they will talk to players."

Wayne Smith on the top four All Black coaching candidates


Ian Foster has clearly been an influential figure in a very successful All Black team. He knows the systems, he knows the structures. He's had a lot of success in that environment.



Scott Robertson has an exceptional record with the Crusaders. He's young in years but I remember after he finished playing coming around for a chat about culture/environment because he was starting to coach Sumner, a second division team in Christchurch.
I remember him walking around with a video camera filming what was great about Sumner, trying to put something personal together for those club players. He took that team up to first division. He's had a long history of working with teams.


Jamie Joseph and (running mate) Tony Brown have been phenomenal over here. I think Japan were the team of the tournament and what I loved is they represented the sort of rugby we play in Japan. All the clubs play fast, really high tempo. For them to represent that on a world stage was outstanding. They put together a brilliant campaign.


Everyone knows how strong my relationship is with Dave Rennie…as friend and head coach at the Chiefs.


The full interview with Wayne Smith airs on The Devlin Radio Show on Saturday.


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.


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