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Why New Zealand Rugby need to hear the story of David Nucifora

By Ned Lester
David Nucifora with Ireland boss Andy Farrell (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

New Zealand Rugby’s plans to announce the All Blacks coach for beyond 2023 prior to the World Cup has been met by some fierce opposition, with many labelling the move disrespectful to current coach Ian Foster if he was to be replaced while others question how it would impact the focus on the World Cup itself.

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The idea of naming a coach’s successor while the incumbent holds office is not new in the sport of rugby, although it is new to the All Blacks.

One example of the system backfiring is the story of David Nucifora, an Australian coach who now resides within Ireland rugby as its performance director. He has contributed mightily to the success of the world’s No1 ranked team.

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The Platform’s Martin Devlin has interviewed Greg Martin and the two pundits remarked how New Zealand Rugby continues to make a shambles of their management of the All Blacks’ coaching saga. They then switched their attention to Ireland and the incredible performance they put in against France last weekend.

“Do you guys know who runs Irish rugby?” Martin asked. “You know, the coaching, the head of the coaching structure. It’s a former Auckland coach, David Nucifora, remember him? He coached the Brumbies in 2004. He is one of my best mates so I do know the story well.

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“He coached the Brumbies and he ended up winning the championship that year but he had already been told, like Ian Foster, that he was going to get sacked. They won the championship because of player power. One of his jobs was to move a few of the old Brumbies on, so he moved them on and they all got dirty and ganged up against him and it’s always easier to sack the coach than it is the players.

“Before he went to Auckland and coached you guys, he won a Super Rugby championship and got sacked. And now, where did he go? Because then he worked in Australia in high performance, someone got rid of him there, then he went to Ireland and he has been the engineer and the architect of everything that has happened in Irish rugby.

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“You have seen those Sevens teams? The girls are outstanding, their blokes are good and their 15-a-side team us magnificent – they are No 1 in the world because of an Aussie that we p***ed off. They got rid of him and now he is designing everything that goes on in Irish rugby. It’s incredible.”

While there is widespread pessimism around the All Blacks’ World Cup odds in 2023 compared to previous tournaments, you can never write the men in black off and if Foster’s side were to win the Webb Ellis after a replacement had been named, it sure would make for one of the most eye-rolling moments in the modern era.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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