Warren Gatland, Dave Rennie, Jamie Joseph and, by extension, Tony Brown, have all ruled themselves out of becoming the next All Blacks coach.
All four men were genuine world-class options to take over from Steve Hansen after New Zealand’s unsuccessful World Cup campaign and headed up a who’s who of Kiwi coaches that have been approached by the New Zealand union.
Although the vast majority of the men reached out to by NZR won’t be serious contenders for the head coach role, the four that have pledged their loyalties elsewhere added some genuine competition to a race that is seemingly now being run between Ian Foster, Scott Robertson and maybe Joe Schmidt.
There’s been talk that these coaches have snubbed New Zealand and suggestions that it shows the world’s most historically successful international side doesn’t have the same pull that it once did.
Others have inferred that these exceptional coaches consider themselves rank outsiders for a role that many expect will go to one of Foster or Robertson.
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The reality is likely somewhere in the middle.
Tony Brown and Dave Rennie have both spoken about why they turned down a run at the All Blacks job.
“It just didn’t feel right to be the guy who’s floating around between three different coaches to potentially get the job,” said Brown. “It felt right to stick with Jamie and what we’ve been doing for the last eight years.
“I made a decision I’m going to stay with Jamie. If he applies for the All Blacks, I’m in. If he stays with Japan, I’m in.”
With Joseph now re-signing with the Japanese national side until the next World Cup, Brown’s international future also lies in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Brown effectively said he wasn’t splitting his loyalties; he’d stick with Jamie Joseph no matter what.
“I’m a proud Kiwi but the big thing is I’ve been talking to Australia for a lot of months and the All Blacks interest came in late in the piece,” said Rennie. “By that stage… we were really excited about the opportunity to go to Australia.”
Make no mistakes, if Rennie had been offered up both the Wallabies and the All Blacks coaching roles on a platter, at the same time, then he would have picked black.
The issue was that Rennie was courted for some time by Rugby Australia before New Zealand even sounded him out – and Rennie isn’t one to go deep into negotiations with one side then leave them in the lurch when a better opportunity comes calling.
While contenders for the All Blacks job keep falling by the wayside, Rugby Australia got their recruitment done quickly with Dave Rennie https://t.co/vvfj0pTLc1
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 20, 2019
For both Brown and Rennie, loyalty played a major part in their decisions to turn down a shot at taking over the All Blacks.
Last time an intensive procedure was undertaken to decide the next coach for New Zealand, Robbie Deans lost out to Graham Henry. Deans then took up the job with the Wallabies but coaching the All Blacks was always his first choice.
It’s one of the reasons why Deans was met with a fair amount of resistance when he took over – the Wallabies job was always his second choice.
Rennie will instead take over with no question marks over his appointment (except for the fact that he’s not Australian, but that’s no fault of his own). Had Rennie gone through the rigmarole of a coaching tryout in New Zealand then he may well have missed out on working with the Wallabies – and likely on an international appointment altogether.
It’s a similar story for Brown, Gatland and even John Mitchell – who has tied himself to England for the near future.
Why risk applying for the All Blacks role if it would taint other potential appointments?
The sheer number of high-quality coaches available post-World Cup has meant that even the best applicants have just a slim chance of taking over the All Blacks.
Tony Brown and Dave Rennie may not think that Ian Foster or Scott Robertson have the coaching role locked up without question, but even if they had an equal chance of becoming head honcho of the All Blacks then the smarter move is to continue to earn their stripes elsewhere.
In other news, Warren Gatland has made a startling revelation now that his time with Wales has come to an end:
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