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Last minute Hurricanes co-coaching set-up?

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Last minute co-coaching set-up looks like a real possibility for the Hurricanes

Liam Napier / NZ Herald

The Hurricanes will have a new head coach next season.

John Plumtree is expected to step back from his role as head coach to join Ian Foster’s All Blacks management team, leaving the Hurricanes scrambling to piece together alternate plans for next year’s Super Rugby season which starts in six weeks.

The Herald understands Hurricanes assistant Jason Holland is the favourite to become the Hurricanes’ third head coach in as many years, though it could yet be in a co-coaching capacity with newly-appointed forwards mentor Chris Gibbes.

Negotiations between the Hurricanes and New Zealand Rugby, who pay the salaries of the head coach and one assistant, are on-going but an announcement is expected by Thursday or Friday this week.

Since assuming the head coaching mantle from Chris Boyd, Plumtree has completed one season in which he guided the Hurricanes to second in the New Zealand conference and fourth overall.

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The Hurricanes lost a knife-edge semifinal 30-26 to the Crusaders, eventual champions, in Christchurch.

Asking Plumtree to juggle both the Hurricanes and All Blacks, where he is expected to take charge of the forwards, would prove too distracting to either role.

Holland is highly-regarded within rugby circles. He emerged through New Plymouth Boys’ High School and played for Manawatu and Taranaki before moving to Ireland and notching a century of games for Munster and then shifting into coaching at the famed club.

Since returning home Holland has progressed from Canterbury assistant to the Hurricanes where he assumed greater responsibility for the backs and team attack after Boyd’s departure to Northampton last year.

Scott Robertson also included Holland in his All Blacks coaching pitch.

Gibbes, likewise, is highly rated and experienced. He’s worked with Japan, Georgia, the New Zealand under-20s, Welsh side Ospreys and Waikato.

In the past three years, Gibbes guided Wellington back to the ITM Cup Premiership where they then lost the semifinal and final in the last two seasons – a significant improvement on campaigns prior to his arrival.

Gibbes had already been added to the Hurricanes coaching team for the next two seasons, replacing Richard Watt, but Plumtree’s expected departure will increase his influence, particularly on the forward pack.

Plumtree’s promotion may leave the Hurricanes with one further coach to add to their team which also includes assistant Carlos Spencer and scrum coach Dan Cron.

While Holland has been at the franchise since 2015 these major changes so close to the season, coupled with the loss of All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea to injury and Beauden Barrett’s move to the Blues, creates unsettling times.

Former Hurricanes second five-eighth Jason O’Halloran has announced this will be his last campaign at Glasgow alongside Dave Rennie but that timeframe doesn’t fit the 2020 Super Rugby season.

It would not surprise if O’Halloran is lured to the Hurricanes coaching team for the 2021 season.

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission.

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Last minute co-coaching set-up looks like a real possibility for the Hurricanes