Kiwis with wings
July 25, 2012
Gatland with the 2012 Six Nations trophy and Triple Crown © Getty Images
Four years ago this week, New Zealander Robbie Deans coached the Wallabies to a 34-19 victory over the All Blacks in his first match against the country of his birth. Deans has experienced a mixed tenure in charge of Australia with the highs of the Tri-Nations victory in 2011 only to be dumped out of the World Cup at the semi-final stage to their perennial nemesis the Kiwis. But Deans is by no means the only Kiwi coach plying his trade in foreign waters. This week's Scrum Sevens looks at a group of New Zealanders coaching a team or nation away from Aotearoa.
The former Waikato hooker was appointed head coach of Wales following the country's humbling exit from the 2007 World Cup. Just months later Gatland lead them to a famous Six Nations Grand Slam triumph. A coaching role with the British & Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa followed for the former Connacht, Wasps and Ireland head coach. Wales, meanwhile, continued to make progress under the New Zealander but it was not until the 2011 season that Wales took the next step up and truly threatened the southern hemisphere sides. Gatland's meticulous preparations, demanding training schedule and trust in youngsters such as George North, Rhys Priestland, Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau, were all crucial to an impressive World Cup campaign, which could have been so much more. Another Six Nations Grand Slam followed in 2012, cementing Gatland's status as one of the world's leading coaches and frontrunner to lead the Lions in Australia next year.
Schmidt is the mastermind behind Leinster's ruthless rule over European rugby. The Kiwi - whose previous coaching assignments include the New Zealand Schools team, Bay of Plenty, the Auckland Blues and Clermont Auvergne - took over as Leinster head coach in 2010 following Michael Cheika's successful reign. He soon took the Irish Province to new levels of performance and achievement. By the end of his first year Leinster had regained the Heineken Cup and finished runners-up in the Magners League. Last season they successfully defended their Heineken Cup crown with a 42-14 demolition of Ulster at Twickenham in May, although they again fell at the final hurdle in the RaboDirect Pro12. More than the results, Leinster have won plaudits from pundits and fans for the scintillating attacking rugby that has been the cornerstone of Schmidt's blueprint for success.
Since being appointed as head coach in 2006, Cotter has made Clermont Auvergne one of the top sides in European rugby. In his first season in charge of the French Top 14 club, he lead them to Top 14 final where they lost to Stade Francais. Two further finals and two further agonising defeats followed in successive years before Clermont ended their final hoodoo as they beat Perpignan in the 2010 Top 14 final. Last season Clermont reached the last four of the Heineken Cup only to lose to Leinster, who were coached by Cotter's former assistant Schmidt. Cotter himself gained much of his coaching experience as assistant to Deans at Canterbury Crusaders before moving to France. His success in the Top 14 meant he was a strong a candidate to succeed Graham Henry as All Blacks head coach after their World Cup triumph but lost out to Henry's assistant Steve Hansen.
Unlike many of the coaches on this list, Kirwan enjoyed a stellar international career. He scored 35 tries in 63 internationals for the All Blacks and is regarded as one of the greats of the game. Kirwan ended his playing career at the NEC Green Rockets in Japan and took up a coaching role with the club before serving as an assistant coach at the Auckland Blues. However like many on this list his big breakthrough came outside of New Zealand, when in 2002 he took over as coach of Italy. The former All Blacks winger had a successful stint in charge of Italy, but when the early impetuous ran dry he left the role in 2007. His links with Japan from earlier in his career led to him being appointed as their head coach in 2007 and they enjoyed some success, especially in the Asian 5 Nations. Having left the role following the 2011 World Cup, Kirwan has returned to New Zealand to take over as Auckland Blues head coach. Kirwan was knighted for services to mental health in 2012.
Rob Penney (Munster)
Penney, a former All Black, is yet another graduate from the well-oiled Canterbury coaching production line. Between 2006 and 2011, Penney led Canterbury to four ITM Cup triumphs in a row and has been involved with the Crusaders, acting as their assistant coach when they won the Super 12 title in 2005. Penney, renowned for his influence as a forwards coach, was handed the honour of leading the Baby All Blacks at the 2012 IRB Junior World Championships. It was not a great campaign for the Baby Blacks as they lost their 21-match unbeaten run in the tournament with a massive upset against Wales and lost their title to South Africa after defeat in the final. However, Penney's previous success saw him entrusted with regaining Munster's crown as the top side in Ireland.
The last six months must have been among the toughest of John Mitchell's more-than 12-year coaching career. In June he was suspended by the South African Super Rugby franchise the Lions following complaints from the players about their treatment by the coach. At the time of his suspension the Lions were bottom of the Super Rugby table and that is where they finished the season. Eighteen months earlier, not long after leaving the Western Force for South Africa, he was stabbed after confronting intruders in his Johannesburg apartment. Mitchell, a former No.8 for Waikato who like many New Zealanders also played abroad, had a stint as England forwards coach before becoming All Blacks head coach for the 2003 World Cup, which ended in a disappointing exit to Australia in the semi-finals.
Mark Anscombe (Ulster)
Anscombe had gone one better than Penney in leading the Baby All Blacks to the Junior World Championships crown in 2011 - their fourth successive triumph in the tournament. Moreover, he was the assistant coach in the Baby Black's previous three victories. His efforts for the New Zealand u20s, for whom his son Gareth played in 2011, enhanced his reputation oversees and landed him the Ulster job, succeeding Brian McLaughlin. Anscombe, who did some coaching in Ireland and England during his playing career, cut his teeth with Auckland, first coaching their development team and then their ITM Cup side from 2008-2011.
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Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September