Axed coach Scott Waldrom says NZ sevens needs a centralised programme
He could be forgiven for feeling like a sacrificial lamb, but Scott Waldrom believes he still has a role to play in New Zealand Sevens rugby despite being jettisoned from the coaching set-up.
The one-time All Blacks flanker was the casualty when new coach Clark Laidlaw from Scotland confirmed his assistants for 2017-18 on Tuesday: another former All Blacks loose forward Liam Barry and former sevens star Tomasi Cama. Barry coached North Harbour and was an assistant with the Blues in Super Rugby.
Waldrom was thrown the interim coach's job, with Cama his assistant, after sevens guru Gordon Tietjens departed last September following the Rio Olympics flop.
Remarkably for their historical excellence in sevens, New Zealand didn't make a single final in 10 world series tournaments in 2016-17 and finished fourth overall behind winners South Africa, England and Fiji.
Waldrom said he'd known for a while he wouldn't be required under Laidlaw's structure.
"I was pretty keen to carry on. Being an assistant coach was always my intention from the start," Waldrom said.
"After how the season has gone, and Clark had time to evaluate and he decided he needs a bit of experience around him and someone with a connection into the Super Rugby coaching side.
"Liam's been involved with our sevens group in Tauranga while we've been based there. I can see the rationale and Liam is a great guy with a wealth of knowledge. I can understand the decision."
Not that it made it easier to digest, initially. No one likes to be told they're out of a job, but for Waldrom it meant more time with his young family in Wellington after eight months on the road, and a return to playing for his Avalon club side who have four matches left in their season.
He picked up a job with DB Breweries and is soon to meet with NZ Rugby to discuss a way forward for the sevens programme which took a significant hit with the side's performances in the past season.
Waldrom said the need for a development squad was the biggest lesson from his time at the helm, and he hoped to coach the next tier of players to ready them for the world series.
"It's certainly an issue. If you look at the last two tournaments we had bring guys in from club rugby who in full time work and training Tuesday, Thursday. Although we think we're leading the world in some areas, you look at Scotland and when they get injuries they get players from their professional teams who have been full time playing and training all year.
"The centralised programme is something that needs to be looked at. Most countries centralise training and South Africa and England are back training full time now. That's something we're probably a little bit behind on."
Laidlaw's squad are expected to assemble in September ahead of the series opener in Dubai on December 1, much better preparation time than Waldrom's men had last year.
NZ Rugby head of high performance Don Tricker said Waldrom did "an outstanding job under difficult circumstances."
"I know that Scott has a big future ahead of him coaching rugby and it will be great to see him develop further over the coming years."
In a statement, Laidlaw said it was important to him to build a coaching team that had a mix of sevens skills and long-standing coaching experience.
"Liam brings a huge wealth of coaching experience to the team, as well as very important connections to our Super Rugby teams and provincial rugby.
"Having Tomasi's sevens brain in the coaching line-up will be a huge asset. He is arguably the best playmaker [NZ Sevens] have ever produced."