For all the things Warren Gatland has achieved over the course of his illustrious coaching career, he's yet to have a shot at capturing a Super Rugby title.

But that incentive, you sense, is far from the mind of the man as he spends his first week on duty in his new role as head coach of the Chiefs.

After arriving in the country on Tuesday, Gatland came straight to Chiefs HQ in Ruakura, but his time over the last couple of days has been very basic.

Learning player names, meeting with staff and enjoying a morning tea with sponsors has been how the 56-year-old has been spending his time. It's all very unlike what he'll be used to, but the large coaching team around Gatland should surely be familiar.


The Chiefs have a total of six coaches that Gatland will have to work with in 2020, with the new signing of former franchise 1st V David Hill being the big new addition to join the coaching foundation of Tabai Matson, Neil Barnes, Roger Randle, Nic White, and Andrew Strawbridge who've all stayed on since the departure of Colin Cooper.

"This week has been about coming in and having a look. I'll do a little more next week, by the feel of it already I think it will be a pretty positive environment to work in," Gatland said.

The large group is par for the course in modern rugby with so much specialisation in the specific areas of the game, from defense and attack to set pieces and conditioning.

All Blacks are due back in camp in early 2020, roughly around two weeks prior to the Round One opener against the Blues. Anton Lienert-Brown is expected to be a big leader in the backline, if not the wider squad in general and the welcome return of a fully fit Damian McKenzie will excite fans, but they'll be put to work in order to earn their spot.

In fact, a large group of players have already been in camp for a little while and with some open positions rife for the taking, namely in the locking department, Gatland says that All Blacks won't be allowed to simply stroll back into top contention.

"We have a group who are here at the moment and I hope when the All Blacks come back in they don't just think that they can just step in. I want them to work hard and earn a spot back in the team".

Thursday also was a special opportunity for 63 talented young rugby players, who also heard from Gatland himself, during a Chiefs region U17 Development Day. Player Identification and Development Manager Kent Currie led the programme, and says it will give the youngsters selected a strong insight.

"It will be a great chance for these talented young men to soak up the knowledge they will learn over the day," Currie said. "They have a compact schedule across the day but it will give them a great insight into the Chiefs development pathway."


Michael Pulman is a freelance journalist based in Hamilton and covers rugby, cricket and social issues.