As the New Zealand Rugby Union searches for ways to stop
former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith going to England to give
away all his secrets, one solution should be presenting itself
quickly - and it's just up the road from Hamilton.
The Blues will be in the market for a new head coach next
season, of that there is little doubt. The plain truth is Pat
Lam has failed to mould a team out of a bunch of talented
individuals during his four years at the franchise, with this
season becoming a huge embarrassment to New Zealand rugby.
Smith, who stepped down as All Blacks assistant coach in the
aftermath of the World Cup victory, has been a massive
success at the Chiefs in his role as assistant alongside head
coach Dave Rennie.
Smith thrives on coaching and wants to do more - currently a
lot of his day-to-day work is tied up with teaching coaches
within the wider Chiefs' franchise - which is why the
opportunity with England under Stuart Lancaster holds so much
appeal. He has said money isn't the driving factor, more the
chance to focus solely on coaching at the top level and
helping a team reach its potential.
If ever there was a team needing some serious intellectual
property and assistance in reaching its potential it's the
Blues, currently dead last on the Super Rugby table with one
victory in nine matches.
Smith has spoken of having to weigh up leaving his elderly
parents in Putaruru and whether or not he could coach against
the All Blacks. Well, if he coaches the Blues he'll be near
mum and dad and he'll be helping the All Blacks.
Smith has a two-year contract with the Chiefs, with an exit
clause after this season. The ins and outs of that clause
aren't known, but it's an NZRU contract so they can do with
it as they wish.
There is a precedent here in the way the organisation stopped
Mark Hammett from joining the then new Rebels franchise in
Melbourne last year.
With a vacancy at the Hurricanes following Colin Cooper's
resignation, Hammett was rushed to Wellington from his
assistant's role at the Crusaders in order to stop his `IP'
going to Australia.
Steve Tew has said the NZRU will do all it can to keep Smith
in New Zealand, but money was tight. Slipping Smith a few
extra dollars and installing him at the Blues could be the
way to keep everyone happy.
Who his coaching partner could be is an interesting one. It
is understood former Blues wing John Kirwan has met the
board, but whether the former Italy and Japan coach would be
willing to play second fiddle to Smith could be a sticking
The leading New Zealanders plying their trade overseas are
not likely to rush back for interviews. Mark Anscombe has
landed a plum role at Ulster which he starts in the Northern
Hemisphere summer, Joe Schmidt's Leinster are in the Heineken
Cup final and Vern Cotter, who missed out on the All Blacks
job, led Clermont to the Heineken semis.
All will be earning big money at high-profile teams which
consistently play good rugby in front of big crowds.
The contrast with the Blues is obvious. So too it seems is
the way forward for Smith, a struggling franchise, and the
- This article originally said Rob Penney had missed
out on the Munster coaching job. That information was