Hansen rules out tilt at top Black Ferns job after Smith departure

November 21, 2022
Whitney Hansen directs the Black Ferns in a training session in Auckland during the recent World Cup.

Black Ferns assistant coach Whitney Hansen says she isn’t ready to take over the head coaching role from Wayne Smith but hopes to remain involved with the new world champions in some capacity.

Hansen, the daughter of double World Cup winner Sir Steve, was today confirmed as an assistant coach of the Christchurch-based Matatū – alongside head coach Blair Baxter and assistants Tony Christie and Dan Cron - after her involvement with the side in this season’s inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki.

With Smith, announced today as world coach of the year at a ceremony in Monte Carlo, stepping down, along with consultants Sir Graham Henry and Mike Cron, there will be several Black Ferns coaching vacancies coming up next year.

However, Hansen, 35, doesn’t believe she is ready for the top job. Wesley Clarke, an assistant coach specialising on the Black Ferns’ defence this year, is probably the favourite to replace Smith after the former All Blacks coach stepped in following the resignation of Glenn Moore earlier this year.

“My focus at the moment is absolutely Matatū,” Hansen said. “I'm super excited to get back into this space – it feels like coming home.

“We've got a special team and I’m excited to work with them.

“In terms of Black Ferns appointments, I know they're looking to advertise a head coaching role but personally I’m not in a space - I don’t feel ready to apply yet.

“I would love to be a part of that moving forward, but that would probably depend on who gets the head gig and whether or not that person wants me to be part of their team.”

Asked what she learned from Smith and Henry, another former All Blacks head coach and a World Cup winner with the All Blacks, Hansen said: “Probably one of the big things confirmed for me working with people and players which I had the privilege of doing, is people first, player second, and if you look after who the person is, that helps the player thrive and that’s been a big part of my philosophy coaching and that affirmed it to me this year.”

Smith played a huge part in rekindling the Black Ferns’ self belief after their disastrous European tour 12 months ago, and Hansen said his World Rugby award was “very much well deserved”.

“He’s given up a year to do something pretty special.

“He’s a special man and I’m pretty proud of him. His message was pretty humble – he said ‘it’s not for me, it’s for the whole group’, and that speaks volumes about how the group has operated this year.

Hansen added she hoped to replicate the Black Ferns’ open game at Matatū.

“We want to play attacking footy,” she said. “That was one of the points of difference for the Black Ferns at the World Cup and it will be a point of difference for us.”

The Chiefs Manawa won the first edition of Super Rugby Aupiki after defeating the Blues women 35-0 in the final round.