1 May 2012

The Catt that got the Cream - Catt Lands role after Smith snubs England offer

Will he or won't he? That has been the question asked of Wayne Smith's future the last few weeks. The possibility of Smith deploying his vast array of technical rugby knowledge, once so synonymous with the All Blacks, with England's young tyros has dominated the rugby media in recent weeks.

For the NZ public, the thought had initially been met with horror, but then a reluctant acceptance. Smith had earned his dues after all. He had spent 8 years as an All Black assistant coach and had even had a period prior to that has the top dog. The NZRU publicly admitted too that they would do everything they could to retain his services domestically. England knew his value and were fighting hard to secure his services.

Stuart Lancaster had even gone so far as taking a flight to South Africa to chat with his candidate during Waikato Chiefs' overseas tour last month. It appears though that the Wayne Smith saga has finally ended today, as he ultimately rejected Stuart Lancaster's plea to join the England coaching team.

The former assistant All Blacks coach apparently turned down the offer for family reasons (a factor cited in an earler post) and will continue in his post as defensive coach at the Waikato Chiefs for the time being. He is currently in the middle of a 2 year contract with the Hamilton based franchise.

"I took the job with the Chiefs so I could move nearer to my elderly parents. I have travelled the globe with rugby for the last 15 years and I want to fulfil my commitment to be closer to them", Smith said.

However, don't be surprised if he ends up in a far more influential post in NZ by next year. With the Blues performing so pitifully this year and Pat Lam's name being continually linked with jobs abroad, there may be a spot opening up in Super Rugby next year.

 With many of the squad signing contracts off-shore too, the challenge of re-building a once mighty union may whet his appetite for a new challenge domestically. The challenge is just as mighty as the one he would have faced had he accepted the England job.

Catt that' got the Cream

Mike Catt honoured by the Queen
As for England, Lancaster has moved fast to get wrap up his second choice. Mike Catt (a former England centre) is to leave his club London Irish, upon the finish of the current Aviva Premiership season, to take up his new role as attack coach during England's tour of South Africa in June.

Catt confided that he was excited by the new challenge after 8 years with London Irish. First as a player and then as a player coach. Catt brings with him huge experience at the top level too, having won 75 international caps for his country and playing a crucial role in the World Cup in England's succesful 2003 campaign. He was regarded as a fine thinker during his playing days and a very positive influence on a young Jonny Wilkinson. Arguably his comination with Wilkinson in 2002 produced some the finest rugby England has ever played.

"There are some talented young players coming through and the chance to work with them for the Barbarians game and the tour is really exciting," added Catt.

Are you England fans happy with the decision? Please comment below!


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