An opportunity to give something back to his "culture" while working with some of the best players in the country are the main reasons Colin Cooper is throwing his hat in the ring for the vacant Maori All Blacks job.
While he still has to ascertain if he is able to juggle his Taranaki NPC commitments with that of the Maori side, Cooper was emphatic when questioned about his interest.
"I definitely would be interested in having a look but there can't be a clash because the ITM Cup is my main focus," the former Hurricanes and Junior All Blacks coach said.
"I haven't given as much as I want to our culture, so there is a bit of that, and being a high performance coach, it would be an opportunity to deal with high quality players," he said.
Cooper, 54, represented the Maori All Blacks in 1982 and 1983 before a serious neck injury ended his playing career.
The Maori All Blacks job became vacant after under pressure Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph quit to focus on his efforts on the struggling Super Rugby franchise.
Joseph has coached the Maori team for the past three years but has opted to step down, meaning a new coach will take the team on a two-match tour of North America in November.
"Jamie has been a special part of the team both as a player and as a coach, including leading the team during the centenary celebrations in 2010," New Zealand Rugby Union boss Steve Tew said.
The NZRU will begin the search for a new coach next month.
Cooper's interest should be good news for the NZRU.
He is easily the most experienced former Super Rugby coach in the country who is still active at first-class level, while the governing body should also consider rewarding him for staying in the country while so many experienced coaches have headed offshore.
The international programme for the Maori side was announced on Friday, with games against Canada and the United States scheduled for November.
They will play Canada in Toronto and the United States in Philadelphia.
Cooper said the short nature of the tour was one of the attractions of the job.
"It's fitting for where I am at the moment.
"With the Hurricanes and the Junior All Blacks [jobs], it didn't fit with me but it does now and if it doesn't clash with Taranaki, then I'm interested.
"Playing for them, being Maori, the history of the side, it's all part of the appeal."
- Taranaki Daily News
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