Former England rugby leader Rob Andrew has revealed how close he got to luring Wayne Smith away from the All Blacks.
And Andrew has pinpointed his failure to close the deal as the death knell for England, who crashed out of 2015 World Cup in the group stage.
Smith, the All Blacks' head coach for two seasons, was coaching at the Chiefs when England zeroed in on him - he eventually returned to the All Black fold just in time to help engineer the 2015 World Cup triumph.
England's hunting of Smith, who is about to end his highly successful stint as Steve Hansen's assistant, is detailed in Andrew's new book Rugby: The Game of My Life: Battling for England in the Professional Era.
The Telegraph has just published excerpts of the book, and England's embarrassment at failing so dismally when hosting the 2015 tournament still apparently lingers.
Andrew has slammed 2015 coach Stuart Lancaster, particularly over the selection of rugby rookie Sam Burgess, the league star.
Former England flyhalf Andrew writes: "Burgess was a rogue ingredient in the mix, both before the tournament and during it, and his inclusion had a negative effect..(he was selected) despite the reservations of those who had not seen anything from him at club level with Bath to suggest that he was even remotely up to speed with the realities of midfield play at Test level."
Smith would have prevented this disaster, according to Andrew, who says the legendary All Black mentor was well down the track in negotiations before pulling out because of his New Zealand rugby loyalties.
"I don't think for a moment that the Burgess thing would have been allowed to take on a life of its own in the way it did had Wayne been on hand to keep things in perspective," writes Andrew, who was England's director of rugby operations at the time.
"At one point, I genuinely thought I'd landed him: we were happy to give him the rest of the year off and receive him with open arms at the start of 2013, and even though the All Black hierarchy was placing him under huge pressure to stay put, we actually agreed financial terms.
"But in the end, I couldn't quite close the deal. 'I just can't do it,' he told me.
"What might we have achieved had Wayne decided differently and brought all his experience and perspective to bear on the England environment?
"It's hard to say with any certainty, but he would surely have saved Stuart and the rest of the coaches from themselves during the run-in to the big event, when the good habits and sound management of the previous three years appeared to evaporate.
"The heat and intensity of a World Cup on English soil undoubtedly had its effect on Stuart, who flew directly in the face of his own good judgment at important moments and ended up paying a heavy price. With Wayne there to support him, things might have turned out differently.
"Wayne might even have talked Stuart out of shouldering additional responsibilities just when he should have been narrowing his focus and directing it solely on the one thing that mattered: the national team and its performance on the global stage."