Opinion: Smith and Blues a match made in heaven

Wayne Smith
Wayne Smith
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 point.

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 NZRU.

- This article originally said  Rob Penney had missed out on the Munster coaching job. That information was incorrect. 

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