Aussie raid for Canterbury-based coaches

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 01/11/2012
aaron mauger
Fairfax NZ
INTEREST: Aaron Mauger has applied for one of the vacant Crusaders' assistant coaching positions.

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An Australian raid for potential assistant coaches could impact on the Crusaders' hopes of getting their preferred candidates to replace Daryl Gibson.

New Waratahs head coach Michael Cheika was in New Zealand last week to recruit a backs coach and met Canterbury attack coach Aaron Mauger and Tasman backline coach Leon MacDonald.

Gibson, who is attracting interest from northern hemisphere clubs after resigning from the Crusaders coaching staff last month, has also had discussions with Cheika.

The Australian's visit coincides with the Crusaders search for an attack and defence coach. Applications close on Sunday and appointments could be made as soon as next week.

Cheika's scouting mission also follows All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen stating recently that he was irritated by the Australian Rugby Union's poaching of players from this side of the Tasman.

Mauger, who has applied to join the Crusaders coaching staff next year, said his meeting with Cheika was informal. "We had a conversation and he seemed like a very nice man," he said.

"I was impressed with what he had to say but it is not the right time for me or my family right now."

MacDonald is understood to have also been approached but indicated he does not want to move his family to Sydney.

Canterbury head coach Tabai Matson, who is expected to apply for a position with the Crusaders, was another likely candidate on Cheika's hit list but could not be reached for comment yesterday

Gibson stated in a text that he had spoken to Cheika last week "about a role he has". Cheika may have also had the benefit of listening to recommendations made by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans about the calibre of the candidates from the Canterbury and Tasman regions.

Mauger, MacDonald, Matson and Gibson - all backs - were coached by Deans at the Crusaders and Canterbury.

Cheika was signed by the Waratahs after their disappointing season under former coach Michael Foley.

Despite the potential disruption to his plans to prepare his coaching staff for next season, Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder bore no grudges against Cheika.

"Not at all. I'm not surprised that he would come over here to look at our coaches. We have got plenty of good coaches here."

Blackadder said he hoped to start shortlisting and interviewing assistant coach candidates after Sunday.

Although there was a chance the attack and defence roles could be combined, Blackadder said he would probably prefer to appoint two coaches.

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"When you have 37 players, which includes the five wider training group guys, it is just such a big job. I just think it's too big to expect one person to do both roles."

Although he said it was not 100 per cent certain All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, who will not be available until late June, would play for the Crusaders next year, Blackadder believed he could return as soon as the June 29 match against the Highlanders.

"I just think that by then he will be going stir-crazy and just want to start playing."

- Canterbury

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