New Zealand Rugby
Henry primed for defining tournament
ESPNscrum Staff
August 29, 2011
All Blacks coach Graham Henry addresses the media ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Heritage Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand, 14 June, 2011
Henry will hope to right wrongs of 2007 © Getty Images

Coach Graham Henry admits the next eight weeks will define the current generation of All Blacks.

The All Blacks surrendered the Tri-Nations trophy to Australia in Brisbane on Saturday with a lacklustre first-half performance, a victory which will give more hope to opposing teams that New Zealand's 24-year streak without a World Cup may continue. But Henry said the Tri-Nations defeat may not do the team any harm.

"I think we didn't play as well as we hoped we would, but if you go back in history in 2003 and 2007 I think the All Blacks were Tri-Nations champions," Henry said. "I think there was a rugby world cup on those years and I don't think we won them.

"What happens in the next eight weeks is going to define this team; how they focus, how they play, and how they enjoy the expectation of the New Zealand public and the excitement of this tournament. That's what's going to define the 2011 team."

Henry said the team management and senior players had looked at what went wrong in the past, particularly in 2007 when their quarterfinal exit was the team's earliest yet. He said the 2007 team made it a priority to focus on one game at a time but a different attitude may be needed this time.

"I think once we get to the round robin we need to set some goals there, what we want to achieve there, and obviously qualify and qualify well, and then look at the sudden death games," he said. "We haven't been good at sudden death football in recent times. We need to have a special mentality playing those sudden death games -- quarterfinal, semi-final and final, you need a special mentality. I think we've got to enjoy the challenge."

Henry said the process of having players leaving and rejoining the squad for the overseas Tri-Nations losses in the past month may not have helped preparation for those games, but the manner of the defeat should give the players plenty to work on.

"We all like to win, and we all like to play well, so we're disappointed about that, but in the whole scheme of things that may not be a bad thing," he said. "I was disappointed in the way we played, particularly that first half which was a shocker.

"They showed a bit of grit in the second half and I think it's a good learning experience for the team. It'll certainly knock out any complacency."

Probably the biggest concerns for Henry out of the Brisbane defeat were the injuries to No.8 Kieran Read and loose forward Adam Thomson, with Read in particular a vital player to the team. Henry said assessment of Read's ankle injury and Thomson's elbow injury could possibly be available on Tuesday.

The team will head to stay in small towns in New Zealand on Thursday night before re-forming on Friday. Henry said their next time apart after that will be at the end of the tournament, whenever that is.

"We've hopefully got seven games in seven weeks and we'll be together for those seven weeks."

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