11 Jul 2015

Sick Chiefs assistant returns to NZ

6:43 am on 11 July 2015

Chiefs assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge has been air-lifted back to New Zealand for treatment after an eye infection left him in a critical condition in Samoa.

Strawbridge, a technical advisor to the Samoa national rugby team, was admitted to an Apia hospital on Wednesday with an infection in his right eye after taking ill on a flight from New Zealand.

Andrew Strawbridge

Andrew Strawbridge Photo: PHOTOSPORT

His condition "deteriorated rapidly" and he was still in a critical condition on Friday, the Super Rugby team and the Samoa Rugby Union said in a joint statement.

But his condition improved enough for him to be flown back to New Zealand by an Auckland Air Ambulance plane, and he arrived back in Hamilton later on Friday.

Chiefs officials and an ambulance were waiting on the tarmac to transfer him to a local hospital.

The 50-year-old had flown to Samoa to help the team prepare to host the All Blacks in a one-off test on Wednesday.

(L to R) Chiefs coaches Wayne Smith, Andrew Strawbridge, Tom Coventry and Dave Rennie

(L to R) Chiefs coaches Wayne Smith, Andrew Strawbridge, Tom Coventry and Dave Rennie after the 2013 Super Rugby final win Photo: Photosport

Earlier, Strawbridge's wife Laura Strawbridge said the family would particularly like to thank a "wonderful" All Blacks supporter, who was in Samoa for the Test match, who responded to the call for a donation of her husband's blood type, as well as the medical staff at the hospital.

"We are touched and overwhelmed by the kindness and alofa shown to us by friends and strangers and the wider rugby community," she said. "The ICU team at Moto'otua Hospital, our Chiefs rugby family, our Manu Samoa aiga and New Zealand Rugby have shown us open-hearted support at this extremely difficult time."

"I am also grateful to those players and coaches from both the Manu Samoa and All Blacks teams who spent time with Andrew before I arrived, making sure he wasn't without a friendly voice."

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