Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Blues coaching shortlist lacks wow factor

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A big decision has to be made at the Blues about their next coach and confidence is low that the right outcome will be reached.

Their global search for a new coach has unearthed an underwhelming shortlist. Kieran Crowley, John Kirwan, Pat Lam and possibly John Plumtree.

That's a good rather than great collection. There is no recognised international heavyweight - no wow factor in that group or anyone who makes you immediately think of a better future.

Nick Mallett would have been a sit up and take notice coach had he been interested. There would have been reason to be excited if his hat was in the ring.

But it is not and in truth, while those on the shortlist have some qualities, have enjoyed varying degrees of success in various places, it would be a surprise if any were to become legacy builders in Auckland.

The talent base of the region and the potential financial clout makes the Blues job enormously enticing. This is a franchise that could challenge for and win titles for years to come if they get it all right. But on the flip side, the size of the talent base is as much a problem as it is a strength. So many players to track, to retain and develop. Nor should the current situation be glossed over - the region has poor structures, poor facilities and a major issue with schoolboy rugby which is too regularly seen as a defining entity rather than a pathway to the next level.

It will take a big personality - someone with vision, energy, drive and doggedness to fix the Blues: to fix the wider region.

In four years at the helm, Lam has proven he's not that man. Could it be Kirwan? A legendary All Black, a man with deeply ingrained, inspirational personal values. But his coaching record is so-so - kind of hard to get a handle on as his two big jobs have been with Italy and Japan.

Crowley was a good provincial operator with Taranaki for more than a decade and Canada were handy enough at the World Cup. But is that enough to be satisfied that he's ready to take charge of what is, in many ways, the most important coaching job in the country?

If Plumtree is in the mix - and gaining accurate intelligence from these closed-door events is not easy - he'd probably be the most compelling candidate.

He's had success with Wellington - well as much as anyone else at the province, taking them to consecutive finals in 2003, 2004 and again in 2006.

He's been handy with the Sharks - taking them to three Currie Cup finals in 2008, 2010 and 2011 winning the title in the first two while he also took them to the playoffs in 2008 and 2011 and is on the verge of doing so again.

That's a record that at least offers tangible beacons of hope but what chance him actually landing the job?

- Herald on Sunday

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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