Rugby sevens: Clark Laidlaw front-runner to replace Gordon Tietjens for Sevens job

By Campbell Burnes

Scotsman Clark Laidlaw is the favoured candidate for the NZ Sevens coaching role after the interview process. Photo /Getty
Scotsman Clark Laidlaw is the favoured candidate for the NZ Sevens coaching role after the interview process. Photo /Getty

A left-field selection is emerging as the front-runner for the vacant All Blacks Sevens coaching post.

While the names Sean Horan and Scott Waldrom were at the forefront of speculation, with both on the short list, the Herald understands that Clark Laidlaw is the favoured candidate after the interview process.

Not to be confused with the Laidlaws of Southland, he is a 38-year-old Scotsman, the son of Roy Laidlaw, one of Scotland's great halfbacks, and cousin of current No 9 Greig Laidlaw.

He is said to be highly regarded internally after his work as Hurricanes assistant from 2014-15 and previously as skills coach for the New Zealand men's sevens team, so he has solid background in the abbreviated game.

But there is a stumbling block for New Zealand Rugby to get their man. Laidlaw is just months into the second season of a three-year deal with the London Irish club. The Exiles play in the second tier Championship after being relegated last season.

Laidlaw would need to gain release from the club to be able to return home as the replacement for Sir Gordon Tietjens, now installed as Samoa's sevens coach. It is understood one of the attractions of heading north last year for Laidlaw was to be closer to family.

His own playing background saw him appear for Jedforest and Borders, as well as representing Scotland at sevens, including at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Moving to New Zealand in 2008, Laidlaw started working with the Taranaki academy before taking the role as skills coach to the New Zealand sevens side under Tietjens. Then followed further roles with Taranaki and Wellington rugby, and he was a driver of the capital's sevens programme from 2013-14, culminating in the province clinching the national provincial title under Waldrom's coaching in 2014.

As Hurricanes assistant, Laidlaw helped guide the franchise into its second Super final last year before taking his current position, originally as assistant to since departed head coach Tom Coventry.


Laidlaw is said to be highly respected not just by the administration, but also, crucially, by the sevens players with whom he has worked.
Olympic gold medal-winning former Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan did not apply for the job, but did raise a valid point via Twitter that it was a shame that New Zealand was not sending a men's and women's team to the Oceania Sevens in Suva from November 11-12.

The likes of former England sevens star Ben Gollings and even Australian women's coach Tim Walsh did apply, as did North Harbour coach and former New Zealand rep Geoff Alley.

It will be interesting to see how many unsuccessful candidates for the men's job also applied for the vacant Black Ferns Sevens position.

New Zealand Rugby was hoping to have both the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens coaches confirmed by early November at the latest. But time is running short, with the opening legs of the World Series set for Dubai in the opening weekend of December.

For the men's coach, there will have been precious little time to keep an eye on potential players given they will not have access to Super Rugby talent and the Mitre 10 Cup is almost done and dusted. The Super rosters are due to be announced in the first week of November.

On Monday, New Zealand Rugby announced the re-signing of eight Black Ferns players - captain Sarah Goss, now with the Black Ferns, Portia Woodman, Gayle Broughton, Kelly Brazier, Kayla McAlister, Ruby Tui, Terina Te Tamaki and Niall Williams.

- NZ Herald

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