As the Blues board consider who will coach the team next year — and with half this season gone, they must be — Wayne Smith has to be close to the top of their list.

John Kirwan has some great qualities. Chief among them is the way he has kept a losing team together. There has been no hint of player rebellion despite the defeats piling up like autumn leaves in a ditch. There is unity and fight, all things you would expect in a professional outfit but which aren't guaranteed.

However, his team have lost almost all their games despite fielding some good players so it's time for someone else to have a go. And that someone should be Smith, latterly of the Chiefs — a talented coach who will rejoin the All Blacks this year.

Whether he wants the job is debatable but he would be ideal because his attention to detail in selection and coaching is something which appears to have been missing in the past two-and-a-half years under Kirwan.


Smith, a former teacher, is one of the most intelligent coaches around but retains a warmth and common touch which makes him popular with players.

Crucially, Blues skipper Jerome Kaino, who has signed with the franchise and New Zealand Rugby for three more years, is a big fan.

Kaino, who credits former All Blacks defensive coach Smith with taking his game to the next level, would have immediate buy-in and that would flow on to the rest of the team.

That is not to say there shouldn't be a role at the Blues for Kirwan, a former All Blacks great whose charisma and optimism make him popular with sponsors, an important group of people these days.

The Blues board should think seriously about keeping him on in some capacity — maybe a director of rugby-type role or one which sees him visiting secondary schools and spreading the Blues' gospel in the Auckland region.

He's tried — Lord knows he has — but his selection strategy has been too inconsistent and his message isn't getting through to the players.

It's time to give someone else a go with a proven coaching record who will have the immediate respect of the players. That's Smith.

But give Kirwan the option of staying in a role away from the training pitch. He deserves that much.