Wayne Smith to step down as All Blacks assistant coach

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Wayne Smith during an All Blacks training session.

Wayne Smith during an All Blacks training session. (Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Wayne Smith will step down as an All Blacks assistant coach at the end of the Rugby Championship in October, choosing not to join in the team's attempt to win a third consecutive World Cup.

The 60-year-old Smith announced Friday he would end an almost two-decade coaching involvement with the All Blacks to spend more time with family and to pursue personal interests.

"There are a lot of things I want to do," Smith said. "I want to reconnect with some people.

"I've got a grandson and I want to spend time with the family. We'll do a wee bit of travel and I'll probably do a couple of projects ... but essentially it will be time to refresh."

Smith immediately ruled out any coaching involvement with another major national team.

"I've got no interest helping other teams try to beat the All Blacks," he said. "I've told (New Zealand Rugby chief executive) Steve Tew and (All Blacks head coach) Steve Hansen that. I will do some stuff in rugby but it won't be with tier-one teams competing against the All Blacks.

"It's fair to say I'm retiring from the All Blacks after a third of my life spent in black. It's been a huge privilege, I've taken it seriously and it's been a massive passion of mine. At some stage you've got to finish, and this is my time."

As a player Smith played 35 matches, including 17 tests for the All Blacks between 1980 and 1985. He began his coaching career in Italy before returning to New Zealand to coach the Christchurch-based Crusaders from 1997 to 1999.

He was appointed All Blacks head coach in 2000 but stepped down after a year, believing he wasn't yet qualified for the role and went to England where he coached Northampton for three years.

Smith returned as an All Blacks assistant coach in 2004 and has continued in that role under head coaches Graham Henry and Hansen.

Hansen described Smith as "a very special man" with an unrelenting passion for rugby and always willing to speak his mind.

He said he was reluctant to agree to Smith's departure but "I knew it was time to let him finish when he asked my wife to convince me to stop pressuring him into re-signing."

Smith said his departure was a win-win for himself and for the All Blacks who would be able to recruit a new assistant who could bring "freshness and hunger" to the team.

"Everyone understands this is a pretty high-pressure job," he said. "The stakes are high, the scrutiny is high and it's the sort of job you take seriously.

"The (All Blacks) jersey is like a precious jewel to me and you've got to keep shining it. To do that you've got to stay hungry and if I'm honest with myself I'd say I'm losing a bit of that absolute hunger and drive that the job demands."

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