Smith ready for final hurrah
Auckland - Wayne Smith will step down as assistant coach of New Zealand after the All Blacks take on France in Sunday's Rugby World Cup final, he said on Tuesday.
Smith, who played 17 Tests for the All Blacks, is to take over at New Zealand Super Rugby team the Chiefs after eight years working alongside All Blacks boss Graham Henry and fellow assistant coach Steve Hansen.
The trio have guided New Zealand to 87 victories in 102 matches, a remarkable statistic in international sport, the only accolade so far eluding them being the Webb Ellis Cup presented to the World Cup winners.
Otherwise they have presided over three 'Grand Slams' (beating England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales on the one tour), five Tri-Nations titles and a convincing series sweep of the British and Irish Lions in 2005.
"I think it sunk in a while ago, that whatever happened this was my last week," said Smith, who also guided the All Blacks in 17 matches as head coach from June 2000 to September 2001.
"It was a special feeling in the box with about five minutes to go (in Sunday's semi-final against Australia), knowing that it was going to go another week.
"You get an opportunity to be in a final, that is all you want. One team is going to come away as World Cup winners on Sunday and you just want that opportunity."
Smith said his decision to step down had "felt right for a while", adding: "I'll get my fix elsewhere."
Looking ahead to the Eden Park final, the 54-year-old warned that despite under-performing in their pool play, when they lost to New Zealand and Tonga, and just scraping past 14-man Wales in the semi-final, France could never be written-off.
"They have a history of making life difficult for us at Rugby World Cups," Smith said in a reference to defeats inflicted by 'Les Bleus' on the All Blacks at the 1999 and 2007 tournaments.
"They have been particularly good against us. I can remember back to 1999 -- we played France at the closing game of Athletic Park in Wellington and the score was 54-7 (in New Zealand's favour).
"Then two months later it was a massive victory to France in the semi-final.
"They have a history of turning results on their head," said Smith, recalling a 1999 semi-final where a 14 point New Zealand lead was transformed into a 12-point win for the French.
"I think that helps us in terms of our complacency. Everyone in our camp knows what it's going to be like and how tough it is going to be.
"They have a lot of ability right across the park and have some very good attacking structures."