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HENRY'S EXIT; HANSEN TIP FOR WALES.

Byline: ANDREW BALDOCK

WALES could today hand the national team coaching job to another New Zealander after Graham Henry and the Welsh Rugby Union parted company.

1 2-year reign as Wales coach ended following crisis talks between the 2001 Lions supremo and senior Welsh Rugby Union officials.

Henry will leave his pounds 250,000-ayear post this week, departing by mutual consent, according to the WRU.

The bombshell news came barely 72 hours after Wales suffered a 54-10 Lloyds TSB Six Nations Championship mauling against Ireland in Dublin.

And the door could now be open for Wales to promote Henry's recently-appointed assistant Steve Hansen, albeit probably on a caretaker basis.

Wales face Six Nations opponents France at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday week, so Welsh rugby bosses are racing against time.

Hansen might well be their man - possibly for the rest of this season's Six Nations campaign - although other possible candidates such as Llanelli coach Gareth Jenkins, Wales A boss Mike Ruddock and Leeds' rugby director Phil Davies could also be considered.

Henry, 54, still had some 20 months remaining of a five-year contract that should have taken him through to the 2003 World Cup.

But Wales will now have a new coach at the helm against France after Henry's departure following 34 Tests in charge, producing 20 wns, 13 defeats and one draw.

The former Auckland headmaster faced cries for his resignation - notably from WRU vice-chairman Les Williams - in the wake of the Dublin debacle.

The WRU announcement still sent shock waves reverberating around the Principality.

"The Welsh Rugby Union general committee regrets to have to announce that after a meeting between the Welsh national coach Graham Henry and senior officers of the union, it has been agreed by both parties that Graham will leave his position this week, " said the WRU in a statement.

"Both sides have thought deeply about this decision, and believe it has been taken with the best interests of Welsh rugby in mind."

WRU chairman Glanmor Griffiths was due at a conference today to discuss "the immediate way forward."

CAPTION(S):

ON HIS WAY: Graham Henry may be replaced by another Kiwi
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 7, 2002
Words:357
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