Bath also get a Kiwi coach
NEWS: The mass exodus of New Zealanders to the Northern Hemisphere's cash-flush clubs are beginning to include a steady stream of coaches.
Outgoing Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has signed a three-year deal to take the helm at English Premiership club Bath.
Blackadder said he was looking forward to a new challenge after his eight-year tenure with the Crusaders ended when they lost to the Lions in the Super Rugby quarterfinal last weekend.
"Super Rugby's open, running rugby and at times over there, with the weather conditions, it'll be a different style of play," the 44-year-old told Radio New Zealand.
"It's a really good challenge for me as a coach. For me it's about going away for three years and still learning and developing."
Bath said in a statement that Blackadder would have the title Director of Rugby - with Tabai Matson, his assistant at the Crusaders, becoming head coach.
Bath sacked Mike Ford in May after a dismal season when the west country club finished ninth in the Premiership and crashed out at the group stage in the European Champions Cup.
Bath Managing Director Tarquin McDonald said Blackadder and Matson would work with existing members of the coaching set-up Toby Booth and Darren Edwards, and with Stuart Hooper.
"They bring a wealth of experience and provide a great fit for the club in terms of what we want to achieve on the pitch, the way we want to play, and our desire to develop home grown talent," he said.
Blackadder announced last year that 2016 would be his last season, after the team failed to reach the play-offs for the first time since 2001.
During his time at the helm, the Crusaders campaign has ended in the Final twice, the semifinals four times and the quarterfinals once.
He admitted it was frustrating to leave the Crusaders without adding another title to the seven they already have in the trophy cabinet.
"It does feel tough but we gave ourselves every chance and got to a couple of finals. That's just life I suppose," he said.
"I have been honoured to coach the Crusaders for the last eight years and it is tough to leave a team that I am so passionate about, but I know that the timing is right for both the team and for me and I will continue to be the Crusaders' biggest fan from afar.
"It is particularly exciting to be embarking on this new challenge with my good friend and fellow coach Tabai.
"It will be a great advantage to have a coach there who I already know so well, and I know that Tabai is a fantastic acquisition for Bath," Blackadder added.
Matson, in confirming he would not be a part of the 2017 Crusaders coaching team, said he was ready for a fresh start with Bath.
"It is never an easy decision to move away from a team you have invested a lot in, but having made that decision I am now excited about what lies ahead," Matson said.
"It will be awesome to be involved in the European club competitions and to gain some more international experience with a proud team like Bath. It is very rare to move clubs and get the chance to continue to work with a coach who you trust and respect, so I feel lucky to be making this step with Todd," Matson added.
Crusaders CEO Hamish Riach paid tribute to the two coaches who have given so much to the organisation.
"We are losing two incredibly good men in Todd and Tabai, and they will be sorely missed around here for the huge contribution they each make to the Crusaders culture," Riach said.
"We respect and understand their decisions to move on at this time and we wish them only the best for the future.
"They have each done an enormous amount to help shape this organisation over the last number of years, are very fine coaches and all-round good men, and have been completely committed to the Crusader values in everything they have done. On behalf of everyone at the Crusaders, I want to thank Todd and Tabai for their immense contributions," Riach added.
Blackadder and Matson, who will arrive in the next few weeks following the end of the 2016 Super Rugby campaign, will be supported by the current first team coaches -Toby Booth and Darren Edwards - together with Stuart Hooper, with the trio continuing to run pre-season training in the meantime.
"We are delighted that Todd and Tabai will be joining the Club," said Tarquin McDonald, Managing Director of Bath.
"They bring a wealth of experience and provide a great fit for the club in terms of what we want to achieve on the pitch, the way we want to play, and our desire to develop home grown talent.
"They are both excited about the opportunity to help shape the Club's future, and they will work very well alongside our current First Team Coaches, Toby Booth and Darren Edwards, and Stuart Hooper."