Rugby sevens: New coach eyes Super Rugby players

By Campbell Burnes

Scotsman Clark Laidlaw will start his new role in June. Photo /Getty
Scotsman Clark Laidlaw will start his new role in June. Photo /Getty

The new All Blacks Sevens coach would like to reopen the vexed discussion about using Super Rugby players in World Series tournaments during the December/January /February period.

Clark Laidlaw, who does not take up his post until June 1, 2017, as he sees out the second season of his contract with London Irish, has gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as his ultimate goal, but there are four World Series to be played before then.

"Ultimately it is up to us to make a programme that a Super Rugby coach knows his player is going to benefit from if he sends him there. Part of my job is to build that trust and have those conversations. If someone has played a lot of Mitre 10 Cup but not much Super Rugby, there may be an option for him to play a couple of tournaments," says the 39-year-old Scotsman.

"There's a lot of initiatives we can help the team with, working with New Zealand Rugby as part of the bigger picture."

One of those is surely having the All Blacks Sevens playing more tournaments outside the World Series to get them sevens-fit. Their absence was noted at last weekend's Oceania Sevens in Suva.

"There's definitely room for us to play a couple more tournaments. That can develop coaches, not just players. So those Oceania tournaments, the Hong Kong 10s, there's scope for not just players, but support staff, to be involved," he says.

Talent ID will be imperative, as it was under Sir Gordon Tietjens, with whom Laidlaw worked several years as the skills coach. Tietjens would watch provincial B and Colts rugby, schools and even club rugby to unearth his gems. Laidlaw, likewise, will be leaving no stone unturned.

"The Olympics and the Commonwealth Games will always be the pinnacle for the sevens team, but the other aim, as an integral part of the player development of NZ rugby, is to have top schoolboys and those on the fringes of Super Rugby. So talent ID will be crucial to us."

He has huge respect for what Tietjens has achieved, but picking his brains might not be as easy now that he has taken the reins of Samoa.

But Laidlaw will have a good lead-in time of some six months before the 2017-18 World Series to ensure he has the right structures in place, the right schedule and most of the right players.

He will be in New Zealand for some of January 2017 around the provincial nationals sevens tournaments and will touch base with interim coaches Scott Waldrom and Tomasi Cama. It will be their team for the 2016-17 World Series, but Laidlaw will have input and Skype will allow him to have his finger on the pulse to an extent.

Laidlaw is around the same age as Tietjens was when he assumed control of the national team in 1994, but he is not thinking he could still be in the job in 2038. The three years to Tokyo is all he has on his mind.

- NZ Herald

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