One of the stories that emerged this week is that New Zealand Rugby is poised to re-sign Steve Hansen as coach past the Rugby World Cup.
It’s fair amazing how little comment that news has attracted. In the past the appointment of an All Blacks coach has been the signal for internecine warfare to break out between the provinces, especially Auckland and Canterbury. Anyone remember Grizz Wyllie and John Hart?
The really important idea was buried in the body of the article.
Locking in the coaching staff sits with the desire to have all of the players involved also contracted, whether it is to stay in New Zealand or head overseas.
That is because at the 2007 World Cup contracts became a major distraction with some players meeting agents from overseas clubs during the tournament.
That attention to detail, the thinking ahead of it, is mighty impressive, and gives cause for cautious optimism. There is no such thing as a guarantee of performance, but taking care to eliminate any and every distraction shows that, from top to bottom, the union is determined to give the team the best shot.
Compare that to the Northern Hemisphere where the clubs still hold enormous sway over the playing calendar. After the ABs beat the Pongos, Sean Fitzpatrick warned the Euro-Orcs:
England are fighting a losing battle to compete with New Zealand and South Africa and that will not change unless they introduce central contracts.
“The All Blacks play 12-15 Test matches a year, which means they’re together 20-odd weeks a year, which makes them almost like a club team,” he said.
“That’s where the northern hemisphere’s going to struggle playing the southern hemisphere and it’s always going to be the same.”
True. But why are you telling them, Sean?