Canada stint whets appetite for coach Crowley

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013

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An initial foray into international rugby has left Taranaki assistant coach Leo Crowley wanting more.

Crowley spent six weeks assisting Canada, teaming up with head coach and brother Kieran, along with forwards coach and former Taranaki assistant Neil Barnes, for the November test window.

Although Canada lost three of their four matches to New Zealand Maori (40-15), Georgia (19-15), and Romania (21-20), the side finished the international year with a convincing 52-8 win over Portugal.

The opportunity arose after Canada's defensive coach, former Wales international Clive Griffiths, was unavailable.

"It was about professional development," he said.

"I didn't get paid for it but every training I was coaching, so it was really good."

Crowley was firstly struck by how much travel was required to assemble the Canada squad and the amount of time it took to get to Tbilisi, Bucharest and Lisbon and how tough it was playing in those countries.

"The Romania and Georgia fields were only 62 metres wide, so it was real 10-man rugby."

Canada also has the problem of European clubs not releasing their players for the internationals. Those players are only released in World Cup years.

Nevertheless, Crowley estimated at least seven or eight players in the squad would make the Taranaki starting side.

Despite only winning one of their four matches, Crowley said his older brother, who played 200 times for Taranaki and coached the side for six years, still enjoyed the full support of Canada Rugby and was contracted through until the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

"It really was a development tour because they don't get back to full strength until June."

As for his own development, Crowley said it was aided simply by being able to have six more weeks coaching in the year.

"I've picked up a few good ideas and hopefully they have from me from what we are doing in New Zealand at the moment.

"We tried to change the way they play and use the ball more, which Kieran and Barnsey [Barnes] were going to do anyway.

"I absolutely loved it, to see what international rugby was like, all you would have to do is ask me again and I would definitely go."

Crowley has been confirmed as assistant coach to Taranaki coach Colin Cooper for the 2014 NPC season.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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