Henry, who is in the Cook Islands for tonight’s Air New Zealand Tourism Awards, said that mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka was critical to the culture that was established from 2004 onwards.
Following the disappointing 2003 Rugby World Cup result, when the All Blacks were bounced by Australia in the semi-finals, he said that there was a concerted effort to change the culture into a team-driven one rather than a coach-driven one following his appointment.
“The leadership drove the team, and communicated with everyone and got feedback. That group, we met three times a week during the season when we were together and every month out of season,” Henry said. “It was very important those meetings, very important to talk the truth. We always talked about the elephant in the corner, what wasn’t right – even if it was me.”
He said that had the players and staff felt that they couldn’t speak their mind in that environment, they never would have become the best in the world, which they have been for the past eight years. Coaching Wales and the British and Irish Lions helped Henry realise that to reach his full potential as a coach, he would need to change the culture to a team-driven one, which was where Enoka came in. “He’s a very, very, very capable man. If I had to talk about one person who has been the most important to the All Blacks over the last 14 years, it’d be Gilbert Enoka,” Henry effused.
“What I was talking about before, about a team-driven culture – he was the main man in developing that. He was in charge of people development and he overviewed that decision to change the team focus.
“He was the head coach in that area, I was the coach in how we played.”