Even though a month has passed since the Bledisloe Cup triumph in Brisbane, Graham Henry was still in a good mood. 'Hey boys, is Robbie Deans around you listening to this,' asks the All Blacks coach in jest. He is in Wellington. Six of us from the media, one in Australia, another in Singapore and the rest in Hong Kong, are patched through to him by conference call. But despite the thousands of miles that separate us, there is no mistaking the levity in his tone. Henry sounds as relaxed as a yogi lost in meditation. He wasn't like this a few months ago. Having failed to take the All Blacks to the holy grail - the World Cup - last September, the knives were out in New Zealand. The media bayed for his blood and roundly criticised everything from his rotational policy to his perceived failure to get the best out of his players. Even his close friend - well-known Kiwi rugby commentator Murray Deaker - said the All Blacks lacked big-game temperament and had 'choked, choked, choked'. But a successful run, nay finish, at this year's Tri-Nations has changed it all around. A narrow 28-24 victory over the Wallabies in the final game in Brisbane on September 13 clinched another Tri-Nations title for the All Blacks, as well as the Bledisloe Cup. Those twin successes could possibly have saved Henry from the guillotine. No wonder he seemed to be laughing his head off when he discussed a range of subjects, from the forthcoming Bledisloe Cup game in Hong Kong to why the future looks rosy for the All Blacks. Long-suffering fans in New Zealand must have thrown away their rose-tinted glasses a long time ago - the world's most famous rugby team hasn't won the World Cup since 1987 - but Henry insists the future is healthy with the quality of players around. 'A lot of players are coming through the system and our development programme is working really well,' Henry said. 'A lot of our overseas-based players are also coming back and the future is very rosy.' Handed a two-year term last December as coach - he survived a challenge from Crusaders' Robbie Deans who is now coaching the Wallabies - Henry said the Tri-Nations triumph had blunted the knives of his critics. 'They're blunted but they've got the sharpeners available at any stage when the appropriate occasion arises,' Henry said. 'Hopefully it doesn't arise. It's part and parcel of the job, I'm afraid, and you've just got to accept it. 'There are huge expectations on the All Blacks and on the job of coach. I don't feel vindicated having won the Tri-Nations, it's more about personal satisfaction.' Soon after the World Cup, a number of leading All Blacks either retired or agreed to overseas deals. Included in this list were Doug Howlett, Luke McAlister, Aaron Mauger, Nick Evans, Byron Kelleher, Reuben Thorne, Keith Robinson, Chris Jack, Carl Hayman and Anton Oliver leaving the New Zealand management with no option but to rebuild. 'We entered the season with half the team not having played in the World Cup. To build a team and win the Tri-Nations and the Bledisloe Cup is hugely satisfying. It has been the hardest year since I started coaching. 'Not winning the World Cup brought pressure and after being criticised so much, not so much by the fans but by the media, it gives me great satisfaction now we have won the silverware,' the 62-year-old Henry added. Despite the increasing numbers of players who are willing to go to Europe and Japan - even Australia, like Auckland Blues flanker Daniel Braid who was supposed to be Richie McCaw's understudy - in search of big money, Henry was vehement that the policy of picking All Blacks from home-based stock should remain. 'I totally agree with the current situation,' said Henry. 'I think it would decrease the value of New Zealand rugby if players can be selected for the All Blacks from overseas. 'There may be a change in the future because I know that Sanzar is looking to widen the Super 14. When that occurs, then that maybe a factor. But at the moment, no,' he said. But to every rule, there is an exception, and in this case it is none other than Dan Carter, who is also widely regarded as the top flyhalf in the world. Carter was given special permission by the New Zealand Rugby Union to embark on a sabbatical with Perpignan in the French First Division at the end of this year. Henry says Carter deserves it and would still be his first-choice pick in the future. 'Dan Carter qualified for a sabbatical because he has played for a long time, about six seasons and 60 tests or so for the All Blacks. You can't just do this willy-nilly, but only for senior players. They have to qualify as a long-term All Black who has done a lot for All Black rugby. 'It was important we keep Dan and it was part of the contractual arrangements, suiting both parties,' Henry added. The Carter policy, however, does not extend to the others. Players like Luke McAlister, who also played in last year's World Cup where the Kiwis were humbled in the quarter-finals by France, will not only have to return home if they want to be selected, but they will also have to prove themselves all over again. McAlister is in England with Sale. 'There's talk that Luke will be returning to New Zealand, but there is no guarantee he's going to return to the All Blacks. He has to be good enough to do that,' warned Henry. 'Maybe those experiences of playing in other countries might help and he will be a well-rounded person. But I'm not sure whether it's going to help his rugby development.' Even though the fate of the Bledisloe Cup has been decided this year, Henry believes the November 1 clash at the Hong Kong Stadium would be an intense affair and 'full-on'. 'At the end of the day, you really can't control these things and we could well have had a situation where the trophy would have been on the line in Hong Kong,' Henry said. 'But the big trophy is in the cupboard and I like looking at it in the cupboard.' No surprise then that he is still smiling. The Great Redeemer 1 Graham Henry never played professional rugby. He was a headmaster before becoming a full-time coach in 1996. 2 Henry's first major role was with Auckland's provincial team, and he won the provincial title four years in a row. He coached the Auckland Blues in the Super 12 from 1996-1998, winning the title twice and being beaten in the final once. 3 Henry was passed over for the All Blacks job in 1998, and instead became head coach of Wales. He guided the struggling team to 11 straight wins, earning the nickname 'the Great Redeemer'. 4 Henry quit Wales in 2002 after a poor Six Nations campaign. Prior to that, he became the first coach from outside Britain to lead the Lions, on the unsuccessful tour of Australia in 2001. 5 Took over the All Blacks in 2004 after the team's World Cup semi-final defeat to Australia in 2003. He won the Tri-Nations in 2005 and 2006, and went into the World Cup in 2007 as hot favourites. The team looked unbeatable, before choking in the quarter-final against France.