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Olympic champion coach joins Black Ferns management ahead of World Cup

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

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Former Black Ferns Sevens co-coach Allan Bunting has joined the Black Ferns in a newly-created role just months out from this year’s World Cup.

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New Zealand Rugby [NZR] announced on Wednesday that Bunting has been added to an overhauled Black Ferns management staff in the wake of an external review into the culture and leadership of New Zealand’s national women’s team in recent months.

That review was conducted after allegations were made by Black Ferns hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate against former head coach Glenn Moore, who resigned from his role earlier this month, following last year’s tour of England and France.

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In Moore’s place has come former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith, who has assumed the role as Black Ferns director of rugby.

Smith will be supported by Whitney Hansen, the daughter of ex-All Blacks boss Sir Steve Hansen, and Hurricanes Poua head coach Wesley Clark.

Former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry and veteran scrum coach Mike Cron have also come onboard in specialist roles, and now Bunting is the latest coaching figure to join the Black Ferns set-up.

The former Black Ferns Sevens co-coach and Chiefs Manawa boss has been added to the Black Ferns staff as manager of culture and leadership.

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That position is a specially-created one in the aftermath of the Black Ferns review, which found the team environment of the national women’s side needed improvement.

NZR’s high performance women’s manager Hannah Porter said the appointment of Bunting in that role has been made due to his strength in developing and leading team culture.

That much has been reflected by Bunting’s success during his decade-long tenure as co-coach of the Black Ferns Sevens, helping them win every major international tournament, including last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Since moving into his most recent position as Chiefs Manawa head coach, Bunting guided the Hamilton-based side to the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki title.

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“Bunts’ on field achievements are well documented but one of his great strengths is growing and supporting authentic, inclusive high performing environments that empower those within,” Porter said in a statement.

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“We think his ability to work with the coaching, performance and other management staff to align their vision and goals will enable the players to really flourish.”

Bunting added that the cultural and connection work done by the Black Ferns off the field will go hand-in-hand with their performance on it.

“If we get our connection right, who we are and what our identity is, it will drive on field performance,” he said via a statement.

“My role will be making sure there is real alignment and connection, because a light is going to shine on this team like never before and we need to decide what we want to be in that light.”

Bunting also made not of his eagerness to work alongside the likes of Smith, Hansen and Clark in an international capacity.

“It’s a cool group of coaches, so being part of that and having a voice is pretty special,” Bunting said.

“Both the players and management are an awesome group, so it’s a great opportunity to work with everyone and make sure, when the pressure is on, we are still enjoying the journey.”

Bunting has already begun his work with the Black Ferns and will join the squad at their next training camp.

News of Bunting’s addition to the Black Ferns set-up comes a day after it was announced the Black Ferns will kick their 2022 test campaign off with a Pacific Four Series against Australia, Canada and the United States in New Zealand in June.

The squad for that series will be named next Wednesday, while the Black Ferns will also play a two-match Laurie O’Reilly series against the Wallaroos in August.

Both series will provide the Black Ferns with preparation ahead of this year’s World Cup, which will be held in New Zealand between October and November.

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