Thu 31 May 2012 | 10:14
Henry to advise the Pumas
Thu 31 May 2012 | 10:14
Henry to advise the PumasSHARE
The "little fella" from New Zealand – that's how former All Blacks coach Graham Henry described himself – has told Argentina what to expect against the three Southern Hemisphere powers this year.
He lauded Argentina's coaching staff, praised the players' grit and the country's strong showing in the last two World Cups.
Hired as an adviser for the Argentines but not allowed to coach in games, Henry summed up Argentina's greatest challenge.
"Need to score more tries," he said. "Simple."
Henry said he was given a contract to work for seven weeks – five in Argentina and two in New Zealand and Australia – as Argentina prepares for a tournament that's been renamed the "Rugby Championship."
He said his main job will be to work on player development and coach Argentina's coaches.
"I think we should look at this tournament as a great opportunity rather than something we are concerned about," Henry said, seated next to national team coach Santiago Phelan. "If we are inhibited by the championship, we will not play well. If we are excited, we will do our best."
Henry hopes to give a small edge to Argentina, which will be the underdog in every match if faces against the three Southern Hemisphere powers. The situation resembles Italy, which entered a decade ago into the Northern Hemisphere's Six Nations tournament and has yet to prosper.
"I'm not here to say that we need to win three out of six, or two out of six – or six out of six," he said. "I think you've got to realise that these are the best teams in the world, and so it's a major challenge."
To warm up for the Rugby Championship, Argentina plays a test against Italy on June 9, and two tests later in the month against France. All matches are in Argentina. Its opener in the Rugby Championship is Aug. 18 against South Africa in Cape Town.
Henry said he has an agreement with the New Zealand Rugby Union about what assistance he can give Argentina.
"There were statements about what I could do, and what I could not do," he said. "And I appreciate that and respect that. So there are some boundaries. And I will work within those boundaries. I have a lot of respect for New Zealand rugby and the All Blacks. They are part of me and I will not upset people who I respect."
Argentina coach Santiago Phelan said he first talked with Henry only a few days ago. Argentine Rugby Union president Luis Castillo called Henry's arrival "a very important moment in the history of Argentine rugby. It's not just any other day."
Henry was asked several times for his evaluation of Argentina, which was knocked out of the quarterfinals by Henry's team in last year's World Cup.
He was also asked what needs to improve – the system, individual players, the physical game or intelligence on the field.
"Maybe the little fella from New Zealand can provide some answers to those questions," he said. "Perhaps."
Henry continually used dry humor to draw laughs.
Asked if Kiwi fans were concerned that he's working for the enemy, Henry replied: "Ah, they are very worried. They are frightened."