Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Buck off a bit on Kirwan

John Kirwan. Photo / Greg Bowker
John Kirwan. Photo / Greg Bowker

Some of the people already getting on John Kirwan's case need to back up a bit.

I didn't hear or see Buck Shelford's reported comments but I've been told he felt they should have chosen someone with more experience. That doesn't wash with me.

JK has far more experience than Mark Hammett, Jamie Joseph, Todd Blackadder and Dave Rennie did when they took over as coaches - and we all know how well they have done this year, particularly the previously little-known Rennie at the Chiefs. I would also have thought that the fact Kirwan knows the lie of the land in Auckland is surely a big positive for the Blues.

I have no direct knowledge of JK as a coach but, as a player, he was one of those guys who gave it his all and there is no reason to think anything has changed. I think some people might be a bit down on him because he has only coached Italy and Japan internationally - and maybe that leaves some with the impression that he isn't much of a coach because those sides lose more than they win.

But hang on a moment - Italy have done well enough in the Six Nations. All right, the bookies always pick them to come last but they have often claimed a scalp or two. Japan, when you see them playing against nations like Tonga and Samoa, are always competitive and Kirwan will have had to do a lot of coaching in both countries to get his methods, techniques and game plans across.

So did Rennie - he had to do some real sharp-end coaching at Manawatu before he started to rise up the ranks and got the Chiefs job. I don't see anyone giving him grief about lack of experience.

The other thing is that JK is apparently bringing Liam Barry and Mick Byrne, the latter from the All Blacks and Japan set-up. Barry, from all the accounts I have heard, has been majorly missed at the Blues this year and that support team - if true - should have quite a bit to offer.

So should Graham Henry. The buzz is he will spend a bit of his NZRU coaching consultancy time at the Blues, and there's very few people would doubt that he will have a positive influence. Add all that up and things look a bit brighter for the Blues and for Kirwan's first Super Rugby coaching job.

There are two other important points to make. First, Kirwan has some real mana among rugby players - and the Blues need that after some time of players not wanting to go there. Second, that mana will be important in making sure the Blues do not kowtow to things like Ma'a Nonu's late arrival this year and Piri Weepu's out-of-condition start to the season. Somehow I doubt JK would have stood for any of that.

Actually, there's a third thing - Pat Lam, when he heard Kirwan was taking over, made some veiled comments about how the best part of his job was coaching the team in South Africa; it meant he had only the team to worry about.

That and a further comment by Lam that he had been protecting people seemed to point to rumours we'd all heard over his time as coach. There were consistent murmurings of interference from some of the executive team; that other people outside the team got involved in running it.

In the Crusaders, Hamish Riach - a former hockey player - runs the office and the business. Todd Blackadder runs the team. I hope people like Andy Dalton and Gary Whetton let Kirwan do the same thing and don't treat him like an employee or some sort of pleb subject to the wishes of the executive or the board.

They should be running the ship, leaving JK to manage the crew. If they do, the ship should perform better.

- Herald on Sunday

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Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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