Kirwan replaces Lam at the Blues
July 17, 2012
John Kirwan unveiled by the Blues © Getty Images
Former Japan coach Sir John Kirwan has been appointed the new head coach at the Blues.
Kirwan will take up his role with the Blues next season and replaces Pat Lam after signing a two-year deal. Lam departs from the Blues after four seasons in charge and has endured a torrid campaign. Despite bolstering their ranks with All Blacks Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu they finished at the foot of the New Zealand conference and twelfth overall.
Kirwan will bring international experience to the role having played for the All Blacks when they won the World Cup back in 1987 and has also coached Italy (2002-2005) and Japan (2007-2011) in recent times. He will now return to the Blues where he had a spell as assistant coach in 2001.
"This is an exciting time. I am honoured to be given the opportunity to lead the Blues next season in what I hope will be a new era of success and innovation," Kirwan said. "I'm also thrilled about coming back to New Zealand and home to Auckland after several years overseas. I am a proud Blues man and I started my rugby career in the region so I am really excited about connecting with fans and working with the Blues community. There is certainly some hard work ahead and I am looking forward to the challenge."
Blues chairman Gary Whetton congratulated Kirwan on his new post but also outlined his expectations. "It's been a tough season for the Blues," Whetton said. "Our supporters expect the team to play winning rugby, as we all do.
"The challenge is clearly laid down for John and we look forward to seeing positive results. While there's no denying John has a stellar playing record in New Zealand, our interest was in finding the right coach for the Blues - someone who could coach this team to success and we've selected John to do that."
Lam will now be searching for a new role despite him re-applying for the post. He was informed on Tuesday that his services were no longer required at the Blues and claimed he has taken "the final hit".
"It's always a battle and if I look at it in terms of being in the trenches and war, I sort of feel in my time here I've been out in the front line," Lam said. "I've been out in the front line and taken shots left, right and centre and I sort of feel that this year in particular it's been the biggest war ever.
"I didn't mind being out in the front and through all my time out there I protected this franchise, I protected the people in it, I protected the team, I protected the players. But it appears I've taken the final hit. The same panel gave me 87% out of 100, which I was really proud of, last year, and I truly believe I'm a far better coach this year after what I've gone through. And more importantly I know that and the people that matter know that and that's what means more to me.
"I leave here with my head high and I just, again for JK, I want the board and Andy to give him everything he needs because, ultimately, this is my hometown, this is my team, no matter where I am in the world, no matter where I go, this is my team and I want it to be successful."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
He teed up Obolensky's try, fought in Burma and played cricket for Warwickshire - we Rewind to look at the story of Peter Cranmer
With the World Cup just a year away, Tom Hamilton picks out five matches to ensure you have tickets for
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup