Gregor Paul on rugby

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Lam in hot demand around the world

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Blues coach Pat Lam. Photo / Getty Images.
Blues coach Pat Lam. Photo / Getty Images.

It's the strangest thing - the Blues fall into the abyss and suddenly coach Pat Lam is supposedly in demand all around the world.

This time last year when the Blues were leading the New Zealand conference, actually playing good rugby and Lam was coming off contract, there wasn't a peep about Lam being lined up by European clubs.

Strange indeed - drag one of the tournament favourites to the bottom of the table and suddenly you are a sage; suddenly the biggest, brightest clubs around the world supposedly have you on the shortlist to be their new coach.

The Blues gave one of their worst performances in history against the Chiefs and a few days later Lam was linked with Bath. They threw the game away against the Hurricanes and Lam supposedly sneaked onto the long-list to take over at Munster. Defeat in Melbourne against the Rebels apparently saw him pique the interest of Sale, with reports suggesting he's a possibility to become head coach at the Manchester club.

Rather than acting as a deterrent, does abject failure make a coach rather desirable; a misunderstood genius in the eyes of those clubs who need fresh ideas and a new direction?

It's a somewhat perverse and illogical situation that Lam grows in demand offshore and the contradiction is best explained by this fact: the Brits can't shake their inferiority complex when it comes to New Zealanders and rugby.

Outwardly the majority of the rugby fraternity over there appear to be hardly lacking in confidence. Far from it - the England World Cup squad are testimony to that.

But dig a little deeper and it can be seen they are so easily drawn in and seduced by almost anyone with a Kiwi accent and a half decent CV.

It's always been like that. Throughout the amateur age, blokes with backpacks would turn up at clubs across the UK, explain they had just arrived from the Wairarapa or any other exotic-sounding name to old world ears and that would be enough have to them ushered into the first team.

It's still like that - the English, French and Celtic leagues are awash with players and coaches who never quite fulfilled their potential back here but are paid a King's ransom and revered over there.

Being a New Zealander is usually enough in itself to secure a top contract without anyone poking around too hard for proof of quality and performance. It says everything that Sale are looking for a new head coach after sacking former Waikato coach Tony Hanks, a man they picked up after he was fired by Wasps. Does anyone remember Hanks at Waikato?

In the case of Lam there are still plenty of influential figures in Europe who remember him from his playing days at Northampton and Newcastle where he was a superb leader.
Memories of him winning the title with Newcastle and the Heineken Cup with Northampton no doubt remain strong for many club executives of today - and that will be enough.

On that basis someone will hire Lam should he be discarded by the Blues.

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