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Vern Cotter reportedly set to take reigns of the Blues

By Ned Lester
Head Coach Vern Cotter of Fiji looks on prior to the International Test Match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Fiji at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

The Blues have reportedly found their Leon MacDonald successor, in the form of Vern Cotter.

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The appointment, reported by 1News, would complete the restructure of all three Super Rugby coaching groups which were impacted by the formation of the 2024 All Blacks coaching group.

Cotter, a former Scotland and Fiji head coach, has amassed championship hardware in France’s Top 14 and flirted with further trophies in the Heineken Cup.

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Cotter was a part of the Crusaders’ coaching set-up in 2005 when his predecessor, Leon MacDonald, was playing fullback for the Canterbury side.

The 61-year-old’s coaching career started 20 years ago with Bay of Plenty.

The Blues’ full coaching changes are yet to be determined, but their squad will go through significant change in 2024.

Nine players are set to leave the club next season as the dawn of a new Rugby World Cup cycle arises. That turnover includes four All Blacks; Beauden Barrett, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Nepo Laulala and Alex Hodgeman.

If Cotter is to be named Blues head coach, the former forwards coach has some sizable holes in the starting XV to address. Although the significant talent pool of the Auckland region will no doubt lend a helping hand.

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Each of the Super Rugby Pacific clubs will face similar challenges, and the Hurricanes and Crusaders each have new coaching staff of their own for the 2024 season, after the appointment of Scott Robertson and Jason Holland to All Blacks duties along with MacDonald.

The Hurricanes locked in All Blacks Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw to lead their next era, which will be without Ardie Savea and Dane Coles.

The Crusaders have enlisted the services of Rob Penney, who has big boots to fill and will be without the assistance of Sam Whitelock, Richie Mo’unga, Leicester Fainga’anuku and likely Jack Goodhue.

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Jon 1 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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