Potential new All Blacks Coach selection process underway

Potential new All Blacks Coach selection process underway

When a list of names was put forward as potential candidates for the vacant All Blacks Coach position last week, the New Zealand Rugby administration was inundated with quality choices. From domestic title winners, to European and International rugby leaders. It all makes for an interesting selection process, and a widely anticipated appointment.

Widely; well that means that the majority of World Rugby are watching. Or at least, interested enough to think “whomever they choose, we need to be prepared for a new force to take the ABs forward.”

Who, or more specifically, what group of coaches are to be chosen, is impossible to say right now. The oddsmakers could have options in your sports betting agents, however, the truth is that it is quite literally one of the most important placement in World Rugby.

Even while there are vacancy signs over the Springboks and Wallabies rugby union headquarters too, the All Blacks have more widespread awareness. The job takes on a higher importance. So the news of the process and probable applicants takes on a more important task.

Not to place too much importance on the selection but…….the state of New Zealand Rugby (NZR) may be reliant on this placement. So as much as it is a process – as will be the selection panel members’ roles – the decision could determine the future course of the national game in New Zealand.

Now that is a formidable responsibility.

Even if the official list of applicants is under wraps, the assumption that the team who is to judge the appointment needs to be respected and authoritative to hold such responsibility, has been reinforced by NZR when that group was named.

Meet the NZR head coach selection panel

The appointment panel includes NZR chairman Brent Impey, incoming NZR chief executive Mark Robinson (see main photo), Head of High-Performance Mike Anthony, and former All Blacks head coach and respected statesman, Sir Graham Henry. They are joined by former Silver Ferns coach and High-Performance Sport New Zealand director, Waimarama Taumaunu, to give an external voice.

Sir Graham Henry looks on during an Auckland Blues Super Rugby training session at Unitec on April 14, 2014 in Auckland. (Photo by Jason Oxenham/Getty Images)

Impey said in a media release, “We believe we have an excellent group of people on the panel, balancing the experience of winning high-performance teams and leadership with external perspective and experience.”

Going through the list of names invited to apply, the criteria and anticipated impact from any coaching change must be handled sensitively. Change is always a tentative process, so that the best applicant is afforded a new start with the team in 2020. And it is not an easy option.

“You don’t put an ad up online to find the next All Blacks coach”.

Potential new All Blacks Coach selection process underway

NZR has already written to a number of coaches familiar with New Zealand’s professional rugby environment, to outline the appointment process and inviting them to apply. 26 is the figure generally accepted as the number, although with the importance being placed on the collected grouping of coaches, the combinations will be as important as the head coaches position.

“This is an official employment process, and therefore it’s confidential.  We are looking forward to announcing the next Head Coach of the All Blacks next month,” he said.

While a list is hard to assume, the names that have been confirmed by their own comments and intentions publicly, all hold quality credentials. They include current assistant coach Ian Foster. He will be comfortable knowing that as a part of the management team, that allows his existing relationships that can only get stronger; if Foster were shown the same loyalty and continuity, given to both Henry and recently departed Steve Hansen.

From there, other International coach’s names include Jamie Joseph. Even while he was re-signed by the Japan Rugby Football Union this year, Joseph would be well placed to be called on to coach New Zealand, after taking Japan to their first-ever quarterfinal playoff at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Joe Schmidt would have been another, although his decision to take time away from the game to be with his family, has not changed.

Then there are the probable domestic coaching choices. That list is headed by Scott Robertson. Razor, as he is known to his friends, is the three-time Super Rugby winning coach. A well respected and personable leader, he would be the popular choice – and has experience with New Zealand Under 20s to support his Mitre 10 Cup strong resume.

Robertson is followed by Dave Rennie. Two-time Super champion coach, the former Chiefs head is currently coaching in the PRO14 and has strong ties to New Zealand. His path in domestic, and now on the European coaching scene are good steps towards an elevation to the All Blacks coach position.

All four are leading contenders would be prepared to begin a new tenure in 2020. And the selection panel will judge these four and all others on merit, as much as considering the best individual for the game as a whole. The national coach is as much a politician and figurehead, as he is a manager.

But what is important from NZR and their stakeholder’s position is, a quality group of coaches.

Coaching ‘teams’ will earn successful appointment

A key part of choosing the next coach will be judged on the strength of the team each applicant brought with them, Impey said. “Whether it’s a scrum coach, attacking coach, we want to see who you are bringing with you.”

In the modern game, the group is as important as the individual. So in terms of assistant coaches, one likely choice maybe Tony Brown. Currently working closely with Joseph and the Brave Blossoms, the duo have been confirmed after an interview Brown gave to SkySport.

His support is what others will be seeking too. And although Scott McLeod was a part of the Steve Hansen administration, few have openly presumed he might stay associated with Ian Foster. The configuration of groups might be closely guarded, until the judgment is finalized. So it might be the discussions about who your defence, attack, forwards and backs coaches, will go a long way towards a successful pitch for the top job.

Other names openly suggested include Vern Cotter, Milton Haig, John Plumtree, and Kieran Keane. Many former players who have established coaching roles are well placed to be within coaching teams to be put forward. Everyone from Tana Umaga, to Brad Thorn, Todd Blackadder, and Jono Gibbs have been suggested.

And although existing contracts and loyalties may need to be sacrificed, often the modern Coach’s contract has an out-clause when International appointments are available. So any Northern hemisphere position could either be ‘brought out’ by NZR, or a timeline could be managed – if the selection panel believes the candidate is valid, negotiations and contract variations could be implemented; if it means the All Blacks coach gets the right team around them.

And ultimately, success will then come down to the personality, charisma and respect of the candidate within rugby circles. The selection panel may seek final approval from NZR board members, leading figures in the game, to get a consensus.

That key decision will then begin a new era, and could see a phase of development within New Zealand Rugby, not seen since 2003.


“Main photo credit”
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