Lions coach targets local talent
Much like what the Hurricanes have become, the Wellington Lions aim to be a team that people can identify with and be proud of.
Coach Chris Boyd is rapidly marking himself as a man who likes to tug at the heartstrings, ahead of an NPC campaign which will begin with an away clash with Manawatu on August 24.
Boyd is close to finalising his squad, which will again have a distinctly local flavour.
"We've continued to focus on the philosophy of Wellington for Wellington and developing our own, rather than recruitment [from outside the province]," Boyd said yesterday.
"There's probably still 10 guys in contention for [the] five positions left in the professional squad of 26. Those guys are well aware of that and all know that their club form's potentially going to have an influence on their ability to play ITM Cup.
"But there's no doubt that there will be people playing for Wellington for the first time in their lives this year.
"It's crystal clear to me that the ITM Cup is a conveyor belt and incubator to professional rugby. We want to win the ITM Cup, obviously, but we also want to develop people to play full professional rugby.
"So, as long as I'm here, we'll be picking guys out of the club competition, developing them and then sending them off to Super Rugby – ideally with the Hurricanes."
It's more than mere talk, with Boyd tailoring the Lions' pre-season schedule to better-suit Wellington's clubs. Semifinals day in the Jubilee and Hardham Cups is August 4, with the respective finals on August 12.
Around that Wellington have a July 30-August 1 camp and then a pre-season clash with Manawatu on August 8. Players whose clubs have made finals will see little, or no game time against Manawatu, before the pre-season concludes with a match in Christchurch against Canterbury on August 17. The following Friday it's all on for real, when the Lions meet Manawatu in Palmerston North.
Boyd said their preparation had been aided by the fact the Hurricanes "very kindly" conducted all their end-of-season reviews during the recent bye week. That means the players can immediately commence their contracted two-week break, whenever the Hurricanes campaign ends.
Boyd has a review of his own soon, when he and the rest of the New Zealand under-20 management group meets with the New Zealand Rugby Union to discuss the Junior World Cup in South Africa. Champions in each of the preceding four years, New Zealand lost to the hosts in last month's final.
"I would've been extraordinarily disappointed if we'd lost last year, because we were the best team in the tournament. In this particular instance I'm not that grumpy about it," said Boyd, who's been assistant coach of the team for two years.
"I'm still very disappointed that New Zealand has finally lost the title but ... we did as well as we probably could have given the resources we had."
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- © Fairfax NZ News
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