Boyd, Plumtree take the reins with Hurricanes

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 02/06/2014
Chris Boyd
PHOTOSPORT
STARS ALIGNED: New Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd says the time is right for Ma'a Nonu's return to Wellington.

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Chris Boyd and John Plumtree are back together and on a mission close to their hearts.

Boyd will replace Mark Hammett as Hurricanes head coach next season with Plumtree dramatically pulling stumps early on his role as Ireland's assistant coach to return to Wellington.

Boyd and Plumtree have signed up for two years, reuniting a coaching partnership that first formed in 2003 when they took the Wellington Lions to three national provincial championship finals in four years.

Now the roles are reversed with Boyd in the top job and Plumtree to take the forwards in a yet to be determined management set-up.

Boyd's appointment comes as little surprise as the Hurricanes look to instil a local coach following four, at times tumultuous, seasons under Hammett, whose arrival from Canterbury was met with scepticism from the start.

There is little doubt Boyd has done his time.

After starting his career with nine years as a Tawa club coach, the 55-year-old spent four years as Plumtree's assistant in Wellington and a further two in Durban with the Sharks.

Boyd then returned home to take the Lions top job in 2012 taking them to the semifinals that year and the final last season. He is in his second year as coach of the New Zealand under-20s, who open their Junior World Championship campaign against Samoa in Auckland today.

However, Plumtree's return is something of a shock considering he took up his position as Ireland's forwards coach late last year with a view to taking the side through to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Boyd confirmed his old mate had called him shortly after Cardiff-bound Hammett said he would not be reapplying.

"He called and asked if I was putting my name in the hat. I said I was and he said he wouldn't stand against me and would like to work with me again and that was that," Boyd said.

"I think Lara [Plumtree's wife] and the kids want to come home. He sees Wellington, from a rugby perspective, as home and when he found out Hammer was leaving and there might be an opportunity, it was very much a family decision, I think."

Plumtree will return to Wellington after Ireland's coming tour to Argentina, presumably cutting short an incredibly lucrative contract to be closer to extended family in New Zealand.

The 48-year-old's family is based in Taranaki and has remained passionate about one day bringing a major rugby trophy to Wellington.

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Plumtree coached Natal to two Currie Cup titles in 2008 and 2010 and took the Sharks to the Super Rugby playoffs three times, including the 2012 final, which they lost to the Chiefs in Hamilton.

If there is one asterisk on Boyd's resume, it is that he has often been a bridesmaid. His Lions have lost a semifinal and final in the past two seasons, while his four years as Plumtree's assistant included finals losses to to Auckland, Canterbury and Waikato.

Now he is tasked with ending the Hurricanes' playoff drought, one that stretches back to 2009 and is unlikely to end after Saturday's damaging loss to the Blues.

Boyd said his first tasks were to finalise the team's management, including at least one other member of the coaching staff and to begin filling any holes in the playing roster.

He was unsure if the new coaching group would include any of the Hurricanes assistants - Alama Ieremia, Richard Watt and Clark Laidlaw.

The midfield leapt out as an immediate area of concern considering the pending departures of Tim Bateman and Alapati Leiua, he said.

"I'll be starting that [player search] tomorrow. There will be some phone calls going around the place. You live in a competitive environment and you can't wait. Where there are holes you need to get your teeth into it and get going."

Boyd was yet to see the Hurricanes' full contract list, but believed "a good chunk" of the current roster were already signed up beyond the 2014 season.

"There has been a lot of hard work poured into the Hurricanes club over the past four years, and it's now our job to build on that foundation," he said.

"Our main focus is to create a brand of football that people find attractive to watch, and develop a team that people want to get behind.

"The ultimate goal for us, the dream, is to fill that stadium again."

- The Dominion Post

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