News that Dave Rennie will step into the Australian head coach role appears to reinforce a common belief that many of the best choices are commonly New Zealanders. This appointment reinforces the idea that Kiwis (New Zealanders) increase the value of the International rugby coach.
Not a statement of fact, although the evidence and widespread influence of many Kiwi head coaches, is quite evidential. Not a case of fact or fiction. It is representative of the quality of New Zealand coaches, and the value they bring in results and – after recent international appointments – in the earning power of a Kiwi rugby coach.
With so many appointments across international rugby nations, their selection of coaches of New Zealand nationality is not a recent trend. News of Kiwi’s emigrating to foreign soils has been evident through the 1990s up till today. A choice that has often brought benefits on and off the field.
That is a trend that continues today. Former Chiefs and two-time Super Rugby winner, Dave Rennie has been announced as the new Wallabies rugby coach; replacing the often maligned Michael Cheika. And Rugby Australia has appointed their second-ever Kiwi coach.
— Wallabies (@wallabies) November 19, 2019
Kiwis increase ‘value’ of international rugby coach
The rugby coach has a crucial role. He or she must be the spokesperson for the game. A role model and an exemplar, for others to aspire to follow. So, if your rugby coach import is not of the nationality of the people, can that person still be seen as the ideal? Of course.
Qualifications and experience, how that person holds themselves and looks to lead others, are the measures. And Raelene Castle, Rugby Australia CEO (herself a Kiwi) feels that Dave Rennie holds all the qualifications to direct the future of the Wallabies. “It was very clear to us, that Dave was an outstanding candidate.”
Castle, along with Director of Rugby, Scott Johnson, has seen no reason why a rugby coach imported from the external market, is not the ‘right fit’ for the Wallabies. She told media at the press conference, “We looked really hard at the Australian options and there wasn’t one at this level, that we believed were available to come into this role.”
The inability of Australia to replenish its national head coach’s position is something Rugby Australia has identified as an area that the union (and others who have looked at a Kiwi coach) needs to spend more time focused on. The same might be said of Japan, who have offered Jamie Joseph an extension on his contract.
🏉🇯🇵 #BREAKING Jamie Joseph said Monday he will stay on as head coach of Japan through the next Rugby World Cup in 2023, a decision that rules him out of the vacant All Blacks coaching role @AFP pic.twitter.com/lhqiRI6PPE
— AFP Tokyo (@AFPTokyo) November 18, 2019
Both Joseph and Rennie were spoken of as possible applicants for the vacant All Blacks role, and each had a viable case yet, in signing with overseas sides, they removed their names early. Why was that? Had they found roles of equal status? Most likely not, with all due respect to Japan and Australia.
However, their decisions appear to reinforce the idea that the best option [often] is to consider a/any Kiwi proposals. Not as a right. Not to say that Welsh or Irish coaches have not met the standard but for the last 12 and 6 years respectively, Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt were seen to be the ‘best option’ at the time.
And in bringing their understanding a New Zealand rugby, and in adapting that style to the home nations, each country has enjoyed fantastic success. The value of the influence on results, in terms of boosting the profile of that nation, in building confidence that after that leadership has moved on, the infrastructure is in a stronger position.
Others too have brought in offshore born/trained personnel. Not always a Kiwi, several Australian and English coaches have exported their talent to foreign sides. And that answers the question ‘Surely not all International Rugby Coach imports are Kiwis’.
The influence of bringing in a Kiwi rugby coach has similarities to other sports dominated by one nation (or region). Roles filled by imports; as much due to the strength of that person’s home country’s influence on a sport. As New Zealand rugby has above the majority of other rugby countries, in their International record and strong domestic talent-base.
Rugby, basketball, football – dominant coaching nationalities
What is common, is how some sports assimilate towards single nations. Where the ‘national sport’ can often be underlined by dominance in results. Where a team; be it men’s or women’s, has success above all others. Think of that sport, and you tend to think of one or two dominant nations.
So for rugby union, New Zealand has proved to be one of those.
Example: International Test winning record = 77% (and higher in the last 10 year period)
That finds comparison with other major sports, like Basketball. And when you often think of b-ball, you think of the NBA and the United States predominantly. Dominant on the domestic scene, with success crossing onto the Olympic and World Championship platforms.
Such attractive assets mean domestic leagues in Europe, Asia and even in Australia, American coaches are as common as your Kiwi rugby coach is.
— NBL (@NBL) November 18, 2019
They are respected and often successful. Bringing knowledge from their college, university and national stages. And while the stage is finding parity more by European nations, the voice of an American coach in basketball is heard more often than not.
The same can be said of Football [Soccer]. The game, which was developed and refined in Europe and South America, has found huge popularity in the English Premier League (EPL). One of the most popular competitions, and with a long history of exporting talent from the United Kingdom. Although today, imported coaches are more influential – think Jose Mourinho, Jürgen Klopp, or Pep Guardiola.
Football managers from Europe exported to the Antipodes
In a coaching sense, football teams are run by a manager. As such, a coach, and many European managers have found themselves being engaged by International nations. The antipodes as an example, wanting to bring in managers and coaches who would help improve player’s skills and the football-culture, and bringing in international coaches would be successful both on the local and international stage.
New Zealand’s first-ever qualification to the Football World Cup, was led by John Adshead. His English experience, with a mix of local and import-player ranks, qualified and participated in the 1980 FIFA tournament.
Australia would also have success with European management, and both nations have now been able to grow and develop their own coaching depth – still with a scattering of imports. Yet experience brought in by a football, basketball or a Kiwi rugby coach, can bring benefits that by virtue, lead to self-reliance.
This is proven in many sports. Imported talent is then learned from, practiced and then refined.
That natural progression occurs in rugby. While several Kiwi coaches have (and are) directing the massive growth of rugby in Japan, the proud nation’s own coaching ranks are strong. By all accounts – and fully accepted by World Rugby – Japan has contributed to their own success; as much as the imported rugby coach has. In saying that, the aim and the goal for the JRFU should be, is to have a Japanese head coach leading the team by 2027 (or earlier).
So while having a Kiwi rugby coach, like Joseph currently in Japan, John Kirwan before him, or Kieran Crowley formerly with Canada, Milton Haig up till 2019 the head coach of Georgia, is a huge benefit. All those men have worked alongside the local coaches, to improve and progress the national sport’s stock.
Value-added contributions when importing a Kiwi rugby coach
While the infiltration by New Zealand coaches is a common theme, it is not to the detriment of the nations they have led. And as many have said, ‘so many Kiwi coaches but…..only one All Blacks head coach role’. So obviously, those who want international experience often look overseas.
So it is an occurrence, as much due to limitations, as it is to the popularity and widespread respect that Kiwi’s [in any industry] have earned. Their value-added contributions to the game are widespread.
As pointed to earlier, on the field as well as off of it, they help develop a culture. Not by discarding the one they are brought into, but in adapting it. So when Sir Graham Henry was announced as the Wales head coach, he did not change it to a Kiwi one. His role was to build on the established system. And with that contribution, he became the Great Redeemer.
What has also changed, is the value of remuneration for an International rugby coach. The market has grown to the estimated value that Eddie Jones commands from England Rugby. Reported as £750,000 per year.
He – along with Warren Gatland when still with Wales – ramped up the international coach salary range. That reflects those two national union’s revenue streams, but it shows the potential earnings.
Jamie Joseph (see main picture) is quite likely signed to a four-year, multi-million yen contract. Rennie could be as high as $300,000 and the incoming All Blacks coach will earn as much.
The value commanded has increased, but by no means does in match basketball or football wages (and never will).
What is clear, is the influence and success that a Kiwi rugby coach brings to a roles they fill across the globe. Positive results in domestic leagues such as the PRO14; Wayne Pivac, Pat Lam, Joe Schmidt. In the French Top 14; Vern Cotter, and the Japan Top League; Wayne Smith, and Robbie Deans.
The world’s top clubs and national federations know that a New Zealander offers plenty. And if the local options do not hold the same qualities, then like Raelene Castle stated, “great coaches don’t hang around”. And it seems that a Kiwi rugby coach is still one of the most attractive options, for any nation/club to consider.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images