Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Coventry's bad luck may be Super Rugby blessing

London Irish coach Tom Coventry could look to fill the Highlanders and Crusaders coaching vacancies. Photo / Getty Images
London Irish coach Tom Coventry could look to fill the Highlanders and Crusaders coaching vacancies. Photo / Getty Images

As the Highlanders and Crusaders narrow down their lists for their soon-to-be-vacant coaching jobs, the name Tom Coventry could yet appear on one or both.

The former Chiefs assistant shifted to London Irish last August and has endured the season from hell. Much admired and respected in New Zealand, Coventry hasn't been able to impose himself in the UK.

London Irish, who finished 10th in the Aviva Premiership last season, are currently bottom and almost certain to be relegated.

They have won just four games under Coventry and their recent loss to 11th-placed Newcastle was seen as their last chance of hanging on to their place in the top flight.

If they go down, Coventry's position at the club will be under scrutiny. Most of the club's best players - Sean Maitland, Ben Franks and Blair Cowan - are all believed to have escape clauses which means they won't be hanging around.

The financial consequences of playing in the semi-professional second-tier Championship will be significant and what often happens in these situations is that clubs have a deep review and then a massive clean out.

Coventry is a realist and knows his position is vulnerable.

"I know we haven't been winning games and people think that the whole place is poison and everything's falling apart. It's just not like that," he told the BBC last week.

"To be honest, they're [the players] a pretty good bunch to be involved with.

"We're just working hard as a team that's probably struggling for confidence and form."

The options for Coventry would be: wait to see if he can hang on to his job with Irish - but find himself coaching at a level miles lower than Super Rugby - or be proactive, assume the worst and apply for the jobs at the Highlanders and Crusaders.

Some may see it as returning home early with his tail between his legs, but his overseas quest was about gaining experience to strengthen his case to be a Super Rugby head coach.

Despite what has happened in England, Coventry would be a strong candidate for both the Highlanders and Crusaders.

He knows Super Rugby well, having been an integral part of the Chiefs set-up between 2012 and 2015. He is a creative thinker yet simple and clear communicator.

At the Highlanders he would fit in easily alongside assistants Tony Brown and Scott McLeod, who have both signed extensions. Coventry is all about doing the basics well, getting the set piece right and being physical across the park.

They are values incumbent Jamie Joseph has instilled within the players.

As for the Crusaders, they haven't been prepared to consider coaches who don't have a previous playing link with the region, but Coventry has a CV and philosophy that could make them reconsider

- NZ Herald

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