Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Clamour to get Smith back grows louder

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Hansen deserves every resource for World Cup and top of list has to be return of popular, experienced coach

Steve Hansen (right) says the door's open for Wayne Smith's return so it should be a done deal. Picture / Getty Images
Steve Hansen (right) says the door's open for Wayne Smith's return so it should be a done deal. Picture / Getty Images

Calling Wayne Smith - your country needs you.

Win, lose or draw at Eden Park on Saturday night, the Sydney Bledisloe Cup clash has already provided more telling fuel to the Smith recall fire. Luring Smith back to the All Black coaching panel is no longer a nice option - it's a World Cup imperative.

Publicly, Steve Hansen has left the door open for a Smith return which can be interpreted that he wants him back. Hansen is probably wary of showing too much public enthusiasm out of respect for assistants Ian Foster and Aussie McLean. Chiefs coach Dave Rennie is under no illusions, saying the NZRU want Smith - who has stayed quiet on the subject - back on board.

As the head coach who will live and die on what happens next year, Hansen deserves every possible resource in a World Cup-centric rugby world. So long as Smith - the defence and counterattack coach for the last World Cup campaign - is up for the task, it should be a done deal.

This is tough on Rennie, who will lose a key influence. But for better or worse, Brand All Blacks has become the be all and end all of rugby in this country. Super 15 considerations aren't in the same stratosphere as a World Cup campaign.

It's not just Smith's knowledge and experience which count. There's rarely been a coach of any sport in this country who draws such long-lasting respect from top players. From Piri Weepu to Andrew Mehrtens and many points in between, Smith's selfless style wins players over. Players often rate him the No1 coach they've had and Graham Henry described Smith as the best coach he had ever worked with.

The All Blacks are starting to tread water. They have been taken to the limit and even outplayed by Ireland, England and Australia since late last year despite clinging to an impressive unbeaten record. The All Blacks need a new impetus. A World Cup tournament is a very different animal to the usual test routine and Smith also knows this deal inside and out.

The All Blacks might also face a tricky changing of the playing guard. Hansen needs a fresh and experienced sounding board along with Smith's technical and man management skills.

Smith has been there, done that in international rugby, including winning the Webb Ellis Cup. He's still an active, vibrant coach with an intimate knowledge of current players and techniques, some of which are his own design. It would be a monumental waste if Smith was left on the sidelines.

It's a dump but still a fortress
Eden Park is an outdated dump that is destroying sport in Auckland. Rugby, league and football are all suffering because our main stadium is not suitable for a whole range of contests. It does hold one ace though - the famous old ground is a fortress for the All Blacks and in a world where their victories are the bedrock of New Zealand rugby's finances and success, the Eden Park factor cannot be dismissed.

Hurrell brings x-factor
It's make or break for the Warriors on Sunday - they need to beat the powerful Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium to show they are in a title challenging mood. Something has gone wrong in the past two weeks, when overall energy levels have been down against Cronulla and Newcastle. The good news for the Warriors is that Konrad Hurrell is back. His wrecking ball game gives the Warriors an x-factor and they have struggled without him. Hurrell is a contender for the most unfit player in the NRL but between all the huffing and puffing he can wreak havoc.

League experiment
I'm conducting an experiment to see if I can enjoy the English Premier League without buying the internet pass which gives access to all the games. This means relying on the one live game a week carried by TV One along with the various club channels available on Sky. Watching the club channels means enduring the often biased and unintentionally hilarious commentaries. The week one classic came from the Manchester United TV commentator, who went ballistic over a Swansea player cribbing a few extra metres for a throw in.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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