10 Oct 2017

How England nearly poached Wayne Smith

5:27 pm on 10 October 2017

The All Blacks coaching mastermind Wayne Smith was on the verge of helping coach England at the 2015 World Cup only to get cold feet.

In a new biography the former England international and director of rugby at the England rugby union, Rob Andrew has revealed how close England came to signing Smith.

In a new biography Rugby: The Game of My Life: Battling for England in the Professional Era, Andrew reflects on England's 2015 World Cup disasters, and ponders how things might have been different had Smith joined the coaching lineup.

Wayne Smith.

Wayne Smith. Photo: Photosport

"At one point, I genuinely thought I'd landed him: we were happy to give him the rest of the year off and receive him with open arms at the start of 2013, and even though the All Black hierarchy was placing him under huge pressure to stay put, we actually agreed financial terms.

"But in the end, I couldn't quite close the deal. "I just can't do it," he told me. And of course, he was back in the New Zealand coaching team for the 2015 World Cup in England. And who won the thing? Well, it wasn't us," said Andrew.

In an excerpt published in the Telegraph Andrew goes on.

"What might we have achieved had Wayne decided differently and brought all his experience and perspective to bear on the England environment?

It's hard to say with any certainty, but he would surely have saved (coach) Stuart (Lancaster) and the rest of the coaches from themselves during the run-in to the big event, when the good habits and sound management of the previous three years appeared to evaporate.

"The heat and intensity of a World Cup on English soil undoubtedly had its effect on Stuart, who flew directly in the" face of his own good judgment at important moments and ended up paying a heavy price. With Wayne there to support him, things might have turned out differently."

Rob Andrew former RFU director of Elite rugby.

Rob Andrew former RFU director of Elite rugby. Photo: Photosport

"Wayne might even have talked Stuart out of shouldering additional responsibilities just when he should have been narrowing his focus and directing it solely on the one thing that mattered: the national team and its performance on the global stage.

"I also think our physical preparation for the tournament would have been very different if he had been around.

"After the last round of Six Nations matches, when we almost pinched the title in what amounted to a cricket-style run chase against the French and left the Twickenham crowd in a state of feverish excitement the like of which I'd never previously witnessed, England had travelled to the United States for some high-altitude training in Denver, Colorado.

"Too many players went on that trip: instead of being a highly detailed, narrowly focused, tournament specific camp, it bore all the hallmarks of an extended trial geared towards final selection."

Wayne Smith will step down from his current All Blacks coaching role after the third Bledisloe Cup test against Australia on October 21st.