New Zealand coach Graham Henry and his assistants Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have had their contracts extended until the end of 2007.
The trio were appointed last year and their current deals were due to expire at the end of 2005 butm after an extensive review of the 2004 season, the New Zealand Rugby Union announced on Friday their contracts would run for a further two years to include the Rugby World Cup campaign in France in 2007.
NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs said the decision was borne of a desire to allow the All Blacks panel to start building towards the 2007 World Cup and to provide certainty to New Zealand’s elite players as to the coaching and selection emphasis in the coming seasons.
"The Board have been delighted with the work of the coaching team, not only in terms of the All Blacks’ on-field results, but also in terms of the amount of effort that they have put into improving the high performance environment in New Zealand rugby," Hobbs said.
"These efforts will have an impact well beyond the Test arena and have contributed to the development of a comprehensive high performance plan which was launched in December."
Henry considers it a real boost to the coaching panel to have had the extension confirmed well before the expiry of their current deals and leading in to the British & Irish Lions series.
"With all three coaches having returned to New Zealand and committed ourselves to All Blacks rugby, it is a tremendous encouragement to have a long-term commitment from the Union," he said.
"We are all committed to trying to tackle these major challenges with the Lions and a Grand Slam Tour in 2005, not to mention the Philips Tri-Nations, while also having one eye on building a strong base for the next series of challenges and preparing as best we can for 2007."