Incumbent Chiefs assistant coach Tabai Matson will retain his role with the franchise next year, despite the appointment of new head coach Warren Gatland.
Matson was part of former head coach Colin Cooper’s coaching staff when the 60-year-old was handed the job ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby campaign, and will remain in Hamilton next season following back-to-back quarter-final appearances.
Despite confirming to Stuff that he is staying on board in 2020, Matson said he hadn’t spoken to Gatland since signing his four-year deal with the club due to the two coach’s commitments to the World Cup.
Gatland is preparing Wales for the tournament, which kicks of in Japan in two months’ time, with training camps in Europe, while Matson is assisting Fiji head coach John McKee as they ready themselves for their second match in as many weeks against the Maori All Blacks, before going into the Pacific Nations Cup ahead of the World Cup.
Matson shut down suggestions that their lack of communication had a negative impact on their working relationship.
“I think it’s one of those things where everyone has well and truly got their heads in the World Cup,” Matson said.
“I’m sure that is completely his focus at the moment.”
It will be the first time the ex-All Blacks duo have worked together throughout their rugby careers, having never been on the same side as players or coaches.
A former Canterbury midfielder, Matson’s last involvement with Gatland came in 1994 when his side won the Ranfurly Shield off Waikato.
Despite this, Matson will be expected to work closely with his new boss, who will make his role vacant for the 2021 season as he coaches the British and Irish Lions for their tour of South Africa.
That means that Matson, who played 10 non-tests for the All Blacks and two tests for Fiji at the 1999 World Cup, could be in line to fill Gatland’s spot during his time in the Republic.
It is yet to be confirmed who will be the Chiefs’ temporary head coach in Gatland’s absence, as the other four assistants who worked underneath Cooper during his two-year stint are yet to be retained.
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