Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Crusaders coaching appointment blow for Matson

Tabai Matson has been overlooked in favour of Scott Robertson (rear) for the Crusaders head coaching role.
Tabai Matson has been overlooked in favour of Scott Robertson (rear) for the Crusaders head coaching role.

The selection of Scott Robertson as Crusaders head coach as Todd Blackadder's replacement from next year will have come as a huge blow to the team's current assistant Tabai Matson.

Matson last season was on the brink of joining the Blues as John Kirwan's assistant with a plan to take over as head coach, an offer which proved extremely tempting for him after he controversially visited the Blues headquarters in Auckland during the Super Rugby season.

In the end, following pressure from the Crusaders' administrators, he decided not to move north. As Kirwan's plans, and season, unravelled, the Blues, after a long and often bitter debate at board level, decided to go for an alternative, with Tana Umaga winning out.

But in Matson's discussions with the Crusaders during the affair, the possibility of his being Blackadder's successor would have been raised.

Now, that too has been dashed, and the personable Matson, a former Canterbury and Crusaders midfielder, might have to seek employment elsewhere. Such is the life of a professional rugby coach in New Zealand. It wasn't long ago that former loose forward Robertson worked under head coach Matson at Canterbury.

Matson might be hoping that his former assistant returns the favour, or decide that a move overseas might be best - Perth to coach the Western Force in the wake of the sacking of head coach Michael Foley might be an option.

Robertson, the current coach of the New Zealand Under-20s who have crashed out of the world championship in England, is likely to appoint current Hawkes Bay coach Craig Philpott, a man with strong Canterbury connections, as one of his assistants. They will be announced at the end of the current season.

The Crusaders are currently on top of the table, and will face the Chiefs in Suva on July 1 in what is looming as a season-defining clash, and Blackadder will be hoping Matson and fellow assistant Dave Hewett, who also applied for the job, retain their focus throughout.

Former Canterbury coach Rob Penney, who left for Munster and then NTT Shining Arcs in Japan after being unable to land a Super Rugby head coaching role in New Zealand, is also likely to have applied for the position.

Robertson said: "This is a team I have played for, am passionate about and looking forward to leading. The head coach of the Crusaders is regarded as one of the best jobs in the world, so I couldn't be more excited to be taking it on."

- NZ Herald

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