Sir John Kirwan faced a dilemma when he shared his vision for the Blues.
One of his preferred running mates had significant say in whether he was fit for the head coach role.
From the get-go, Kirwan wanted Sir Graham Henry with him in the coaching box.
Only, that was a problematic at the time. Kirwan could not shoulder tap him right away. Henry was off-limits.
The world cup-winning mentor sat opposite Kirwan during his interview, soaking up the systems and structures the former All Black wing prophesied for the Blues.
The irony is the Knighted pair will now join forces in a beefed up management team, along with forwards coach Mick Byrne and backs specialist Grant Doorey. A scrum coach is still to be added.
"I wanted to contact Ted pre getting the interview, then he was put on the selection panel so I couldn't do that," Kirwan said yesterday after confirming his four-pronged management team included Henry and two Australians. "Graham was the first person I spoke to afterwards."
It is clear now Kirwan's blueprint to turnaround the troubled Blues struck a chord with Henry. It coaxed him out of semi-retirement and inspired a return to the pressures of a full-time focus.
Pat Lam asked Henry to take up a similar role this year, but "Ted" had not enjoyed enough space to clear his head post-world cup.
Kirwan's request came at the right time. Henry's competitive spirit and lust for a challenge could not be contained any longer. As far as challenges go, they do not get much bigger than this two-year project. There will be no quick fix.
"There wasn't much persuading that needed to be done," Henry said, admitting he would not have accepted the invitation from any other region.
"JK has got huge credibility in this province and in the world. He's a respected man.
"How good of a rugby coach is he? I'm buggered if I know. I've never coached with him. But I like the person. I've got a lot of respect for the person."
Henry's new brief as technical assistant and defensive analysis directly replaces his role mentoring New Zealand coaches, and players, at the four other franchises. He will, however, maintain the freedom to take up international consultancy positions with the likes of Argentina, after the Super Rugby campaign.
"It is a change of role from a NZRU contract, to a Blues contract," Henry confirmed.
There is a sense of symmetry about Henry's homecoming. Upon returning from Wales, Henry assumed the same title and helped the Blues secure their last title, back in 2003.
"It would be nice to repeat that success," he smiled.
The reality is a may take longer to achieve such feats. Kirwan has done well to convince his bosses to open their coffers and pay for two of the four salaries after they put the squeeze on Lam this season. It is a start, but he could be hamstrung by 17 players already under contract. Few others are available, either.
Outside of Henry's influence it will be interesting to observe the Australian flavours. Byrne, the All Blacks skills specialist, has long courted greater responsibility with the big boys while Doorey, who played a handful of NRL games for Manly in the early 90s before switching to union coaching in France, is an unknown character.
"It's the next step of growing my role as a coach," Byrne said. "That's something I've always wanted to do. This is a great opportunity to look across the forward pack on a day-to-day basis."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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