Reluctant Peter Russell now ready for shift

MAGPIES TO FALCONS: Hawke's Bay Peter Russell is packing his bags and leaving for the English club premiership.
MAGPIES TO FALCONS: Hawke's Bay Peter Russell is packing his bags and leaving for the English club premiership.

Peter Russell says he would have preferred to stay in New Zealand, but had put too much "time and energy" into his coaching career to walk away from the professional game.

Hence the long-time Hawke's Bay coach's decision to uproot and head to England where he will take the reins at the Newcastle Falcons.

Russell was axed by the Magpies last year after five successful years, which culminated in them beating Manawatu in the ITM Cup second-tier final.

He said yesterday that, after some initial frustration at the lack of jobs in New Zealand, he was looking forward to the new challenges of working in Europe."I talked to a few people and I realised I've put too much time and energy into it to just walk away from the top stuff," Russell said.

He was unsure how long he'd remain overseas, but said he'd love to return to New Zealand to coach at Super Rugby level again after two seasons as an assistant with the Highlanders.

"It's hard to say. We'll see what happens. Obviously everyone wants to go as far as they can in New Zealand, but for now this is the focus and the opportunity," he said.

"I'm really excited about the challenge in England. It's a bit different than here, they don't have the same systems or the number of young players coming through, but then the older ones tend to stay on and play longer."

Russell has previously coached Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa Bush, and the New Zealand Divisional XV, but has no overseas experience.

He said his only experience of Europe was watching competitions closely over the years on television and via the internet.

He did not plan to take any New Zealand players with him, but will have plenty of Kiwi company with former Hurricanes Jimmy Gopperth and Tane Tu'ipulotu as well as former Blues second five-eighth Jamie Helleur among the foreign players at Newcastle.

There will be some pressure for Russell and director of rugby Dean Richards to turn things around after the side finished bottom of the championship last year with six wins, two draws and 14 losses.

The Dominion Post