Highlanders defence coach gets All Black job
NEWS: Highlanders assistant coach and former All Blacks centre Scott McLeod was named Saturday as the New Zealand national team's new defence coach.
He takes over from assistant coach Wayne Smith, who announced last month he was leaving the world champions, saying he needed to "take a break" from the game.
McLeod, who played 10 Tests in the mid-1990s, has signed on as defence coach through to the 2019 World Cup.
He will join the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship series, but does not officially start his role until the end of year Northern Hemisphere tour.
All Black coach Steve Hansen said he had been impressed with what McLeod had done with the Highlanders, one of the best defensive teams in Super Rugby that also beat the British and Irish Lions.
"Internally there were a couple of real obvious candidates and it was nice that Scott applied and he interviewed really well particularly in the areas we are keen on.
"He is following someone who has done a magnificent job but he doesn't want to be Smithy, he wants to be Scott McLeod and that is massively important.
"You have to come in and be your own person and do it how you want to do it and all the structures that Smithy has set up [McLeod] is familiar with because they talk a lot on the phone and he clearly displayed in the interview that he has his own ideas as well."
McLeod said he was "very honoured and excited" to be given the opportunity to work with the All Blacks.
"Having worked in Super Rugby for the last eight years with some of New Zealand's top talent, I was highly motivated to continue that, but at a higher level.
"To work with the All Blacks in pinnacle events will be both challenging and rewarding.
"I'm very grateful to the Highlanders franchise for supporting me for the last five years and also encouraging me into this role. On behalf of my family, I'd also like to thanks so many people for their ongoing support."
New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said: "Scott is an outstanding coach and we're very pleased to have him join the All Blacks.
"He's been a key part of the Highlanders coaching team which has enjoyed fantastic success in recent years. They were champions in 2015, semi-finalists last year and have already qualified for the playoffs this season.
"The win over the British & Irish Lions last week was obviously special for him and the team. We look forward to seeing him join the team later in the year."
Highlanders CEO Roger Clark said he was pleased for McLeod.
"The franchise is delighted for Scott, in reality, just like players, coaches have aspirations for higher honours and it's great for them as individuals and for the franchise, when they achieve them" Clark said.
"Jamie Joseph, Tony Brown and Scott are now all coaching at international level and that really does reflect the quality of coaching the franchise has enjoyed in recent times."
McLeod's time with the Highlanders has coincided with considerable success for the Highlanders franchise, champions in 2015, semifinalists in 2016 and already qualified for the playoffs this year.
"Along with Jamie and Brownie and the rest of the coaching group, Scott has been a big part of our recent success. The heart of our rugby strategy is to recruit people who we believe are Highlander men, people that can add real and lasting value to our franchise. Scott certainly falls into that category as do our more recent coaching additions Mark Hammett and Aaron Mauger," said Clark.
The Highlanders will seek a replacement for McLeod at the conclusion of the Super Rugby competition.
"Clearly with Scott moving on and of course Tony joining Japan, we need to add another coach to our mix from next year," Clark said.
"We were very happy to secure the services of Aaron Mauger recently and with Mark Hammett joining us last year we already have two experienced coaches so just how we complement them going forward will be determined through the recruitment process."