Rugby

Smith turns down England

2012-05-01 15:36
Wayne Smith (AFP)

London - New Zealand's Wayne Smith has rejected an approach to join England's backroom staff, citing "personal reasons".

Smith was contacted personally by England coach Stuart Lancaster, who met with the former New Zealand assistant turned Waikato coach in Durban last month.

Lancaster had a vacancy after former dual-code international Andy Farrell decided to stick with Saracens after being seconded to England from the Premiership champions for a Six Nations where the Red Rose finished runners-up behind Grand Slam champions Wales.

That tournament represented Lancaster's 'audition' for the England job after he was initially appointed on a caretaker basis for the Six Nations following Martin Johnson's post World Cup resignation.

Former All Blacks flyhalf Smith helped New Zealand win last year's World Cup on home soil, forming an impressive coaching trio with boss Graham Henry and Steve Hansen, having been head coach in his own right from 2000 to 2001.

As Smith turned down England, who will stage the next World Cup in 2015, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) also announced Tuesday that ex-England back Mike Catt would join the coaching set up for next month's five-match tour of his native South Africa.

Smith, explaining his decision to remain in New Zealand, said in an RFU statement: "I was very impressed with Stuart (Lancaster) when I met him.

"He is an outstanding individual and will be a great plus for England," added Smith who was in charge of Premiership side Northampton for three years before his eight-year stint through to the World Cup alongside Henry and Hansen.

However, he added: "It was an incredibly difficult decision but ultimately I have decided to stay in New Zealand, mainly for personal reasons.

"I took the job with the Chiefs so I could move nearer to elderly parents. I have travelled the globe with rugby for the last 15 years and I want to fulfil my commitment to be closer to them.

"I do also feel some loyalty to the (Waikato) Chiefs and the job that I have with them and leaving after eight months when I have a year left on my contract did not feel right."

Lancaster, who last week described Smith, as the "stand-out candidate" to replace Farrell, said: "Wayne rang me this (Tuesday) morning and I fully respect his decision which, as he says, was a difficult one.

"He is clearly a coach of quality, honesty and integrity," he added. "All my energy will now go into preparing for an exciting tour to South Africa."

Catt will join up with England after leaving London Irish, where he has been both player and coach, after their last Premiership match of the season on May 7 and stay with England through to June 30 in what amounts to an 'audition' for the job vacated by Farrell.

"Mike has played at the top level and is highly respected," said Lancaster. He has done a great job whilst coaching at London Irish and we are looking forward to working with him on this South Africa tour."

Port Elizabeth-born Catt added: "I was very impressed with England during the Six Nations, not just the way they played but the culture that is developing, and hopefully I can complement what Stuart and Graham Rowntree (the forwards coach) are doing."

Smith's decision to reject England will come as a huge relief to New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew, who said last week: "We're desperately keen to keep him in New Zealand, no doubt about that."

England play the first of three Tests against the Springboks in Durban on June 9.

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