New Zealand Rugby (NZR) said Wednesday that All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith had signed a two-year contract extension keeping him with the world champions until after the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour.

Smith took a break after New Zealand won the World Cup in November but said head coach Steve Hansen had persuaded him to stay on as the All Blacks rebuild without superstars such as Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.

It’s going to be a big year and I’m looking forward to it,” said Smith, whose name was briefly linked to vacant roles with the England national side and Harlequins as he pondered his future.

NZR chief executive Steve Tew said Smith — who will focus on defence and turnover attack — completed a coaching team that also included Hansen, Ian Foster (backs) and Mick Cron (forwards).

“With the All Blacks coaching and management structure now finalised, the team can look forward to planning for this year and beyond,” he said.

Smith, nicknamed “the professor”, is widely regarded as one of the code’s best analytical brains and was a key member of the coaching staff when New Zealand won the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.

He stepped away from international coaching in 2012 and helped guide the Waikato Chiefs to two Super Rugby titles before being recalled to help the All Blacks retain the World Cup last year. 

The 17-Test All Black emerged as a successful coach when he guided the Crusaders to win the 1998 and 1999 Super titles and took over as head coach of the All Blacks for two years after that.

Smith worked in England as coach of the Northampton Saints for three seasons after resigning as All Blacks coach in 2001.

He has since resisted all offers to move overseas citing his allegiance to New Zealand. – Agence France-Presse

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