New Zealand rugby have made the first of 2 big decisions in their bid to restore the All Black 7s to the top of the international pile.
Clark Laidlaw was the best sevens rugby brain in the country prior to his departure 2 years ago.
He had started the 7s performance culture in Taranaki that resulted in their Nationals victory in 2013. Waisake Naholo, Seta Tamanivalu, Beaudein Waka and Scott Waldrom had come through the ranks.
But you’ve gotta be in 15s to make any money in rugby and so he moved to the Hurricanes but he was involved with the resurgence of Wellington 7s helping both the men’s and the women’s programs.
Laidlaw was a very important figure behind the scenes when Wellington won the Nationals in 2015.
He helped to develop the likes of Murphy Taramai, Tongan sensation Vaea Fifita, Hayden Schrijvers and Greg Foe who would go on to play for Samoa.
Laidlaw fought off relatively inexperienced competition in ex-women’s coach Sean Horan, Scott Waldrom and Taranaki’s Willie Rickards.
Waldrom is helping Tomasi Cama to guide the team while they wait for Laidlaw who will not take the reigns until June – after the World Series.
This shows that New Zealand Rugby are very serious about this appointment. Getting the right man is more important that getting someone in place in time for the current series.
They accept there will be re-building, new systems and a new culture and the 2020 time-frame is the best outlook.
The All Black 7s poor performance in the latest World Series and Olympic Games should have caused a stir within rugby ranks in New Zealand.
It should have caused a major re-think.
It was sheer arrogance to think the Kiwis could be competitive when only a handful of top players were made available and then only for intermittent periods rather than the entire season.
Add a couple of injuries and the end result was a tired team that failed to make the medal rounds.
So that’s the second challenge right there – giving the team the best chance of Olympic success by making players available for a reasonable length of time.
New Zealand Rugby have made the first step.
Time will tell whether they make the second.