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How Wayne Smith was able to 'evolve' as a coach

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Fiona Goodall - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The Black Ferns’ inspirational World Cup triumph was certainly a reflection of the playing group’s determination and resilience, but the influence of coach Wayne Smith also hasn’t gone unnoticed.

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Rugby guru Smith was named the Coach of the Year at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco on Sunday evening, after guiding the Black Ferns to World Cup glory in New Zealand.

Smith, who won two Rugby World Cups with the All Blacks as assistant coach, became the new head coach of the women’s team in April.

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The Black Ferns had recently toured to both England and France for two Tests each, and lost of all of their end-of-season tour matches by emphatic scores.

But under the tutelage of Smith, who has surely cemented his legacy as one of New Zealand Rugby’s all-time great minds, the Black Ferns were able to turn their fortunes around.

Throughout the World Cup, the Black Ferns were able to unite an inspire a nation as they continued to play with passion and respect.

Sold-out crowds at Auckland home of rugby, Eden Park, watched on as the women in black beat France in a thrilling semi-final, before an incredible upset win over England in the final.

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While Smith had accomplished some incredible feats in the men’s game, how he was able to adapt to the women’s game is simply a reflection of his genius – and might go down in history as his crowning achievement.

Speaking on The Rugby Run, former All Blacks lock Ian Jones praised the mastermind for how he was able to “evolve” his coaching game, and steer the Black Ferns to glory.

“If you don’t evolve you stand still, you actually go backwards. Wayne Smith’s passion, his knowledge for the game is second to none, no question about that,” Jones said on SENZ.

“The further that game went on, I knew Wayne was going to make some tactical changes at halftime like he’s done on countless occasions with the All Blacks, and things would change like they did.

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“One of the real great things that stand out to me about Wayne, who as a player and a coach has given so much to the game, he went out of his way to understand how to communicate with women athletes.

“You can’t compare the All Blacks and the Black Ferns Yep, we’re under the same umbrella and we’re a strong brand together, (but) two different teams, two different cultures.

“He learnt so much about the game. The thing about communication, and one of the strengths about New Zealand rugby, is when you give you get so much back in return.

“Wayne Smith is a giver; he will communicate and there’s no secrets of world rugby that Wayne Smith would not be happy to share. The more he shares… the more he gets back, and the more he learns.”

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Smith came out of retirement to help guide the Black Ferns to World Cup glory, but he’s now expected to sign off from the game once again after being crowned the world’s best coach.

Speaking after the final, Smith said that he’s “not going to stay involved” as a head coach, but he’ll be following the Black Ferns as an avid fan going forward.

Jones compared the potential departure of Smith to an all-time great leaving the All Blacks, saying the Black Ferns need to “have confidence” in whoever replaces him.

“Well I don’t know if he’s yet done. The guy has given so much service and we have to give confidence to the next people coming through, with the greatest respects to Wayne Smith,” he said.

“We also have to have confidence in the next players coming through.

“Remember no retiring All Black great as good in game on as they were in game 100. They get better.

“When player A comes in to replace a legend and he’s not exactly like the legend was in his last game, well give him time, he will become a different player. I never stress about rotation.”

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