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Hansen liberated NZ rugby brains - Barnes

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    17 Dec 2018     Getty Images

Sunday Times columnist and former England and British & Irish Lions five-eighths Stuart Barnes said Hansen's decision was a good time to reflect upon not just the All Blacks' record but the style in which his side has played.

"Test rugby would have seemed an ugly enough spectacle in this age of size and statistical obsessions were it not for the liberation of the New Zealand rugby brains," Barnes said.

Hansen's announcement was a reminder of the 'undeniable dominance of New Zealand rugby', he said.

"It is there in the record of Hansen. Fifteen years as part of the Kiwi management team and the main man since 2012. The statistics are stunning.

"Eight defeats in 96 games, an international win ratio of 88.5 percent. Six Rugby Championship titles to go alongside the 2015 World Cup, which he also won in 2011 as Graham Henry's assistant.

"I am a sceptic when it comes to many a statistic but this one is not coming at us with a forked tongue. The All Blacks, bar the drawn series with the Lions, have been all but unassailable. All but. Two words to strike fear into a rugby nation accustomed to winning nine out of every 10 internationals they play," he said.

Hansen's problem, Barnes said, was that his record was simply too good. Defeats were never disasters but when winning more than 90 percent of games, they did feel more than an 80-minute off-day.

Even the act of replacing Hansen demonstrated the difference with most other nations. England would be agonising over whether to promote a homegrown coach, and that from a list that was neither long nor convincing, he said.

"Contrasted with the Kiwis' list, it makes the hegemony of New Zealand rugby almost brutal. The rugby world has seemingly, in some ways, shrunk down to an elite army of New Zealand managers.

"Hansen's replacement will be another New Zealander, the only question being who," he said.

"In England we scratch around for an Englishman. In New Zealand there's nothing but varying New Zealand options. They have squeezed the rugby universe into their very own ball," he said.

While reviewing the New Zealand options of Joe Schmidt, Ian Foster, Warren Gatland and Scott Robertson, Barnes said Dave Rennie should also be considered, but he felt he should be England's pick as head coach when Eddie Jones departs.

"In the space of two seasons he has toughened up Glasgow Warriors and gained an understanding of the areas of European play where the southern hemisphere can be tested. As one of the world's best counterattack coaches (to him the broken field is the essence of the game) he would thrive on a diet of New Zealand's gifted attackers," he said.