Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: A badly needed victory for common sense

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Common sense and a rugby committee intersected yesterday when JK became the eighth Blues coach.

You held your breath in case they came up with some wacko decision like using an interim coach until Vern Cotter or Joe Schmidt was available in 2014.

But when the emails, faxes and murmurs grew louder around noon, John Kirwan had won the race against faltering incumbent Pat Lam and another expat, Kieran Crowley.

It was time for a change. Lam's record of 27 wins, 32 defeats and a draw in four seasons was poor and his relationship with Blues officials was strained. Nice guy, new face needed.

Forget the learn more through adversity theory which his mentor Graham Henry famously used on the NZRU in 2007.

The Blues were in freefall in 2012, they had as much appeal as junket left out in the sun.

Something had to be done, someone had to take charge of the coaching, meet the problems and find some solutions. Of the candidates, Kirwan best fitted the requirements.

He was a born and bred Auck, had weathered several tough seasons with the Blues franchise as manager and assistant coach to Frank Oliver, then worked through his international L-plates with Italy and Japan.

He was a career coach but that passion was unrequited. His long-range vision was perhaps a place in an All Black coaching group but he knew that pathway started with work in the Super 15.

He was ready to come home, he was passionate, his family were content to shift from northern Italy to Auckland. The NZRU selection committee concurred, and yesterday Kirwan gazed down on the Eden Park patch where he scored many tries for Auckland and the All Blacks and where his new squad will play next season.

Ten years ago, current Blues captain Keven Mealamu and ring-in Orene Ai'i were part of the squad which Kirwan assisted.

They are on a list of 42 players used this season by the Blues, a roster Kirwan will prune and then, in conjunction with his new management group, add to and contract with their vision for next season.

By his own admission, Kirwan made lots of mistakes when he was last with the Blues. He has also learned a great deal in the decade since and would bring those experiences from Italy and Japan with him. He was always learning and coaching was an ever-evolving project.

"I intend to be challenged, I intend to change, I intend to continue to get better and I want to be that as a person and I think it is important as a coach," he said.

He did not have all the answers but he had an open mind. His message was strong, his vision was clear, now we have to see if he can carry the Blues region out of the fog which has enveloped it.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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