Chris Boyd takes swing at NZ Rugby after being snared by Northampton

Chris Boyd takes swing at NZ Rugby, after being snared by Northampton
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07: Chris Boyd, Head Coach of the Hurricanes Super Rugby team during the Leaders P8 Summit at the National Tennis Centre on November 7, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for Leaders)

Sometimes, talented people have to play a waiting game. They assume that opportunity will come their way, and are patient. In New Zealand Rugby; with such limited spaces available in the top-tier of coaches, Chris Boyd has decided “I’ve run out of time”.

The head coach of the Hurricanes Super Rugby franchise confirmed his future in 2018/19 lies in the Northern hemisphere. And in speaking with media this week, has shown little hesitation in taking a swing at his employers – New Zealand Rugby (NZR).

Chris Boyd takes swing at NZ Rugby after being snared by Northampton

In deciding to become the Director of Rugby for Northampton, Boyd follows a procession of names. Yet his decision must have been due to limits on where he believed he could go within the natural progression.

His place secured in the echelon of Super Rugby history [thanks to the 2016 victory], Chris Boyd is one of the higher skilled coaches within the ‘managed system’ that is NZR. Both managing and selecting the coaches for the All Blacks, NZR have the final authority in Super Rugby head coach placement.

So much so, NZR were consulted by the Crusaders when Ronan O’Gara was appointed as an Assistant Coach [if it prevented any local coaches opportunity].

So for a talented leader like Chris Boyd, as it did for Dave Rennie or Jamie Joseph, if there are no places free within the NZR system, then where can they go? “Once you get to Super Rugby head coach in New Zealand, there’s really nowhere to go.

“And I think it’s an issue potentially for New Zealand Rugby”

“That there’s a lot of experience and intellectual property that ends up going overseas,” Boyd said on Radio Sport on Monday morning.

Europe the only place for Chris Boyd to head

Admittedly, the answer [sadly] is Europe. And yes it might sound as though that is the ‘golden handshake’ some might dream of – in terms of rewards – but coaches in fact dream of leading New Zealand teams. Boyd will have a burning desire and should have been coveted by the union, for his rugby knowledge.

But if the coaching stocks have already been filled, then there is no place left–other than Europe. And in him–and others leaving–the choice highlights several issues. Do all five Super Rugby coaches get regular contact from the national body? And if the consistent placement of a head coach for the national team, isn’t that a restriction on the opportunities for others?

The answers are No, and Yes.

No, however that is in the terms of Steve Hansen. Boyd has stated that he had not been in contact with Hansen for three years. Although, the Hurricanes coach has clarified that Scrum Coach Mike Cron, assistant Wayne Smith and ‘Prince Regent’ Ian Foster have interacted with the franchise. So NZR do show interest.

The deeper issue is with the overflow, and continual (often relentless) appetite that foreign clubs desire New Zealand coaches. Often not satisfied with players, if the circumstances are right–see Boyd, Rennie, Joseph and the likes of Daryl Gibson, Tony Brown, Todd Blackadder, Kieran Keane, Rob Penney, Pat Lam and Wayne Pivac–all names who have left during the tenure of Steve Hansen.

Targeted by European Rugby – the NZ Rugby Coach

Of those names, Boyd, Rennie and Joseph have claimed the Super Rugby title. They are acclaimed within their regions, famed by many others, yet they watch on as the likes of Michael Cheika win a Super Rugby tile and are then promoted to the national team.

True, New Zealand’s national team does not have the turnover of other sides. When Stuart Lancaster was selected, his tenure lasted only just four years. Replaced by a successful Eddie Jones – who had won his Super title with the Brumbies. It showed that a requirement for many national coaching roles included a Championship.

So Boyd is now the example of the ‘having won a title, am I not the next in line?’ argument. But it appears that within the All Blacks establishment, it is ‘who you know’ rather than based purely on recent results.

There cannot be an exact correlation, due to the recent long term success of the All Blacks. If an AB coach were to be fired [like Lancaster] than the selection policy might see Boyd at the top of the list. But with Hansen signed until after the Japan Rugby World Cup, others may feel the same as Boyd has.

Chris Boyd takes swing at NZ Rugby

Still, the consternation this week has been as much in the honesty of Chris Boyd. Not afraid of the repercussions, after choosing to leave. He spoke of the challenges of having your best players unavailable.

When asked by about the in-season All Black training days, he observed “not to have them at the start of the week and then play a game two days later, is really short of high performance in my mind.

“I think the bit that I was disappointed about – I am not sure that all relevant parties  to that decision ever got in a room and chewed it over.”

Possibly, after this final year of Super Rugby, members of the media like Last Word on Rugby, will miss the honesty of men like Boyd. One of the lasting memories of him will be how on the morning after the Super Rugby grand final win, Boyd talked with LWOR. Bleary eyed and still enjoying his sides triumph, Boyd was both gracious and self effacing. “It’s the team who celebrated. We just enjoyed being a part of them reaching their goals.”

Straight talking to the end, Boyd will direct the Hurricanes for this one last season. Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee said Boyd’s successor would be announced in due course. “I think the main thing right now is that with Boydy’s plans for 2019 confirmed everybody’s collective focus will be solely on 2018 and giving the Hurricanes the best possible chance at another title,” he said.

Lee said Boyd’s place in Hurricanes folklore was assured after he led the club to its first Super Rugby title in 2016.

“Boydy’s done a great job and we are sad to see him go, but we understand Northampton is a great opportunity for him and we’ll be wishing him all the best when he heads away.”


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