Oxford University last night unveiled New Zealander Murray Henderson as their new head coach.

Henderson, who has coached in England, Japan and Portugal as well as his home country, will steer the Dark Blues into the Nomura Varsity Match on December 9.

The former Canterbury flanker will officially start work on September 1, but will have a planning meeting with captain Nick Haydon and backs coach James Gaunt tomorrow.

Henderson, who replaces long-serving director of rugby Steve Hill, said: “I’m not here to reinvent the wheel, but we’ll do what is required for a new era of Oxford rugby.

“It is great to be involved in that.

“Anyone coaching here needs to be aware that traditions are stronger than gold.”

He added: “I go right through to the Varsity game. That’s what I have signed for at this stage.

“We’ll reach some decisions after that.”

Henderson’s playing career saw him captain Canterbury and New Zealand Combined Services and culminated in an All Black trial in 1986.

He was Coventry’s head coach in 2007-08 and until now has been forwards’ coach with Portugal, who defeated the Dark Blues 24-18 in January.

Henderson’s coaching CV also saw him work with Canterbury Crusaders, the New Zealand RFU plus Sanyo and Kanto Gakuin University in Japan.

He said: “When I look at Chris Laidlaw, David Kirk and Anton Oliver, that in itself makes me proud of the New Zealanders who have gone before me here.

“I am very honoured to be coaching the Blues.”

Henderson said Oxford University’s traditions and prestige were key reasons why he went for the job.

He said: “Those who wear the Blues jersey are following a tradition of those who wore it 100 years ago.

“That is how it is with the All Black jerseys as well. You are not just an All Black for the moment you wear the jersey and that’s what you have here at the university.”

Henderson also liked what he saw having faced the Dark Blues with Kanto Gakuin and Portugal.

“When the opportunity came, it wasn’t quite out of the blue and it was just at the right time for me,” said Henderson.

He described the Varsity Match as “the icing on the cake” of Oxford’s season.

But how does Henderson feel about the prospect of being judged on one result?

“Part of the decision-making process was about that,” he said.

“It is like the one Test match you live or die by.

“But we are also devloping young players.

“Nick and I have some talks and he wants to have more of a physical approach. That is one of my strengths.

“There are four months of devloping Oxford rugby and then the Varsity Match.

“Hopefully one sustains the other.

“It is all about December 9. Even when we are preparing to face Wasps A, we’ll be training for the Varsity Match.”

Henderson added: “One thing I think is really important is the community factor.

“Oxford should have a big connection with the community and I have no plans to alter that. I will look to boost it.”

Haydon said: “Appointing a coach of Murray’s standing is a real catch for the Blues.

“His track record of playing and coaching at the highest level gives us the chance to really progress, not just in the Varsity Match, but also as a major club for the Oxford community.”


Sept 15: Fili, Moscow (a). Sept 20: United Students, Moscow (a). Oct 4: Esher (a). Oct 11: London Scottish (a). Nov 8: Sale (h). Nov 17: Major Stanley’s XV (h). Nov 22: Saracens (h). Nov 29: Northampton (h). Dec 9: Cambridge University (Twickenham).