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Henry becomes a coaching centurion

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Sportal.co.nz     27 Sep 2011     Getty Images

Richie McCaw reached his famous All Blacks milestone on Saturday and celebrated with a crucial 37-17 Rugby World Cup victory over France at Eden Park before receiving his special cap from former NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs.

Henry should also mark his milestone with a victory - a common occurrence since he took over from John Mitchell in 2004 following the failed 2003 World Cup campaign - when the All Blacks meet Canada on Sunday.

In his 99 games in charge to date, Henry has won 84 for an 84 percent winning ratio.

That success is not always evident in his demeanour, particularly in his dealings with the media, when the veneer of the old headmaster rarely slips.

But the players provide a different perspective of what the 65-year-old former Wales and British and Irish Lions coach is like.

"He's a great man. From the outside the perception is not the reality," lock Ali Williams said.

"He's got a great sense of humour. He tells you what he wants and he lets you know where you stand."

"I can't speak highly enough about him. He's helped my career, if not probably saved a bit of my career."

Williams got tremendous support from the All Blacks coach during his two years on the sidelines recovering from successive Achilles injuries.

Henry does not shy away from making the blunt assessments when they are needed, according to Williams.

"He tells me how it is. Sometimes you don't want to hear the harsh truth that you're not good enough. But that's what you need to know so you can get good enough," he said.

Halfback Piri Weepu, who has been around for the majority of Henry's tenure, has noticed a mellowing over the years.

"Every time you guys (media) see him he looks grumpy. But that's just how he looks," he said.

"He's pretty mellow. From 2004, when I first made the team to now, he has mellowed a little bit. He's probably more approachable now."

"I probably say that because I've been around him a lot. He's good to have a sit down and chat with. He's always asking how things are with the families and that sort of thing."

But like all good coaches, Henry is not afraid to dish out a spray when he feels necessary.

"There's been a few," Williams admitted with a grin.

Weepu added: "We've seen him erupt a few times, when you are not playing the best and your coaches are disappointed in you because they expect the best from you and you don't deliver."

"His standards are high and you've got to try and stay at those standards. But luckily most of the time we've done pretty well and had a pretty good success rate with him."

Prop John Afoa said it was when Henry was quiet that the players worried the most.

"I think the quieter he is the angrier he is," he said.

"If he's silent then that's when you really get out of his way."

"But (generally) he's great. He gets along with everyone in the team. You've just got to get up to him and start yarning with him."

"He's just another bloke. He's got kids. He's got grandkids and he likes to talk about them. When we're off the pitch everyone gets along and we just chat."