Scott Johnson joined New Zealand Head Coach Graham Henry and his assistant Steve Hansen in an informal Q&A session with guests of the region at Llandarcy on Wednesday.
The trio, who worked together as part of the Welsh coaching set up in the early part of the decade, were reunited following the All Blacks visit to Ospreylia to prepare for Saturday’s international between Wales and New Zealand, and after training was complete, they took to the top table to answer questions from guests that had been invited along to the session.
The 20-minute session provided an entertaining insight into the views of three leading coaches, who together, helped to lay the foundations for Wales’ first Grand Slam in 27 years.
Questions from the floor covered a wide variety of topics, including the Kiwi coaches’ time in Wales, their current role in their homeland and their thoughts on the autumn international series, as well as a wider view of the modern game including the financing of the Rugby World Cup and desired law changes in the game.
When asked to name a Welsh player from any era who he would pick for New Zealand, Henry waxed lyrical about the abilities of Gareth Edwards, who he first saw playing as a Lion during the 1971 New Zealand tour, while Hansen opted for his teammate John Dawes.
The three coaches were in agreement as to the best answer to the current problem of end-to-end kicking in matches, with the view put forward by Johnson that players should be able to call the mark anywhere on the field if it is clean catch, an answer that appeared to gain unanimous support from rugby fans in the room.
Questioned about the likelihood of a successful Rugby World Cup in his homeland in two years time, Hansen touched upon the prohibitive expense of hosting such a tournament. After promising that New Zealand would host a successful event despite the costs, he then spoke passionately and at length about the need for the IRB to provide financial assistance to future prospective hosts, to enable all rugby countries to bid for the tournament and not just the richest, for the good of the global game.
There were also interesting views on the ‘story of the moment’, and whether or not players are getting too big after spending too much time in the gym. The coaches discussed how far behind in terms of fitness Welsh rugby was then first arrived on these shores, and how there was a desperate need to work in the gym and improve on that. However, the consensus was that maybe that has gone too far now, and with the fitness gap now eradicated through the more professional approach of rugby players in this country, there possibly needs to be a switch of focus back to skills.
Speaking about the event, Ospreys Elite Performance Director, Andrew Hore, said:
“We are extremely thankful to the New Zealand rugby management for agreeing to participate in this informal forum, which meant that we were able to share what has been a memorable day for the region with some of our guests.
“Their views and thoughts on the game of rugby were certainly informative as you would expect with three progressive rugby minds, and those present found the session very entertaining and insightful.
“The presence of the All Blacks sparks interest in rugby amongst the local population, wherever they go, and that is no different in this region. This visit has been fantastic for us, on and off the field, with the clear benefits to our coaches of meeting up with such experienced rugby people, the global profile of the training session here, and this successful forum that allowed members of the Ospreylian community to really get an insight into what makes international rugby’s most efficient operation tick.”
Kim Daye from the Ospreys primary sponsors, RWE npower renewables, added:
“I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to come along and watch the All Blacks train and attend the forum, and I have to say that I thought it was a tremendous exercise. It’s not every day that you get the chance to watch the world’s leading team in training close-up, and then to be able to join the Q&A and put questions to the three coaches really was fantastic.
“It’s clear from listening to the coaches speaking that there is great mutual admiration and respect between the Ospreys and the All Blacks, and hopefully, the relationship can help to push the Ospreys forward over the coming seasons.”