Robson: Canes coaching successor is close by

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:04 11/04/2014
Chris Boyd
PHOTOSPORT
AT THE HELM: Wellington Lions coach Chris Boyd.

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OPINION: The search will be wide and far reaching, but the Hurricanes' best coaching bet is right under their noses.

Wellington Lions and New Zealand under-20s coach Chris Boyd ticks all the boxes for a franchise in need of a steady local hand.

More than a decade ago, Chiefs supremo Dave Rennie slipped out of the capital to forge his career elsewhere. Here's hoping the franchise doesn't make the same mistake again.

Boyd is a similar character - down to earth and from a background where coaching is not the be-all-and-end-all. He has perspective and success.

Some heavy CVs may come across chairman Brian Roche's desk in coming months, but only Chiefs assistant Wayne Smith should cause pause for thought.

The position is to be filled by mid June, but it seems impossible to fathom the Hurricanes haven't put out any feelers since Mark Hammett informed them pre-season he wouldn't be reapplying.

Tana Umaga's press release confirming his commitment to Counties came five minutes after Hammett's, a coincidence that will save Roche at least one phone call in coming weeks.

Cantab Robbie Deans would be unpalatable to the same pitchfork-wielding mob that has attacked Hammett these past three years.

Boyd's old mate John Plumtree would be good, but will be knee-deep in Ireland's World Cup preparation and probably too well paid to consider a homecoming.

Peter Russell is at a loose end after stepping down at Newcastle, but had little favour in the NZRU's halls of power when he left and was not setting the world alight in Britain.

Which brings us back to Boyd.

He is experienced and universally popular with players. He has guided the Lions to the semifinals and final of the national championship in the past two years and, as assistant, helped the Sharks to the Super Rugby final in 2007.

Further, in his role with the national under-20 team, he has an important grasp on the young talent the Hurricanes will need to tap into in coming years.

Boyd will need assistants. Former Wellington and Hurricanes players Jason O'Halloran and former All Black No 8 Filo Tiatia wouldn't be a bad duo.

Manawatu coach O'Halloran is fast gaining a reputation as a shrewd tactician with a calm head, while Tiatia, back in Wellington at present, has impressed at Ospreys in Wales and in Japan.

Tiatia has bided his time since hanging up his boots and made every post a winner, including stepping in to help the Japanese national side against the All Blacks last year after Eddie Jones suffered a stroke.

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The popular pair would create plenty of goodwill, something that cannot be underestimated for a franchise with empty stands and diminishing season ticket sales.

Current assistants Alama Ieremia and Richard Watt, Boyd's Lions assistant, will still be digesting Hammett's decision, one they learned of last week at the same time as captain Conrad Smith.

It remained unclear last night whether Ieremia or Watt have designs on remaining in the franchise fold. End-of-season player reviews may have a bearing.

Whatever the case, change is coming. Hammett didn't say as much, but the toll on his wife and young family was surely a major factor.

Public criticism has been a constant over the past three seasons and five losses at the end of last year may have sealed his decision.

However anyone spins it, results simply haven't matched the team sheet over the past three seasons. Only time will tell whether the off-field changes have been worthwhile.

Whatever the case, Hammett should be admired for making a call.

To do it earlier would have disrupted the buildup to the season. Any later and there was the risk of months of public calls for his head.

- Fairfax Media

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