Wayne Smith has made it clear he will never coach against the All Blacks when he stands down from his role at the end of this season having cemented his place as one of the game’s all-time great thinkers.
What is not generally known is that Smith was supposed to have helped revive English rugby in the wake of their disastrous 2011 World Cup campaign. The Rugby Football Union’s search for a replacement for Martin Johnson came down to a straight choice between Stuart Lancaster and Nick Mallett. What appeared to sway it in Mallett’s favour to those outside the Union, was the fact he would come as a double act with Smith. The pair had enjoyed working together while in charge of the Barbarians and Mallett told me that Smith was on board and ready to take up the challenge of coaching England.
As the rugby history books show, the RFU opted for Lancaster and while Ian Ritchie, who is about to quit as RFU chief executive, will never admit it was a mistake, the fact they brought in Eddie Jones after the 2015 Cup debacle, proves the biggest and wealthiest Union in the World needed outside help. By waiting four years, they missed out on Smith who will leave a massive gap in the All Black coaching set up, but one man who could be a long term option is former All Blacks No10 Nick Evans who has just retired from playing with English Premiership outfit Harlequins.
Evans helped win the Premiership title in 2012 having moved to London in 2008 and according to Danny Care, the England scrum half and Quins captain, Evans has been the best overseas signing in the history of the competition. He finished as Harlequins all-time record points scorer with 2,249 points from 208 senior appearances.
Evans, 36, will become Quins attack coach next season and given his outstanding rugby brain and ability to motivate and an inspire, he could be fast tracked to test rugby. Evans, who won 16 caps, has set his sights on putting himself forward for the AB’s and his first foray into coaching has seen him lead local side Wimbledon RFC to promotion. He said: “I would love to coach in Super rugby and hopefully get a chance with the All Blacks but I need to get a coaching reputation and that requires a lot of hard work. I really enjoy coaching and having been working with Wimbledon RFC who have gained promotion this season
“I know this is the right time to finish playing and I know there will be times when I start thinking “ I could still be out there”, but I am ready to move into the next phase and I really enjoy coaching.”
So, finally, English rugby could actually develop an All Blacks coach and send them to complete their training in New Zealand, rather than the other way around.
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