Will John Kirwan end Auckland’s Blues?
Brumbies Francis Fainifo tackles the Blues Rene Ranger in the Super 14 rugby match at Canberra Stadium, Saturday, May 9, 2009. The Brumbies won the match 37-15. (AAP Image/Alan Porritt)
Former All Black John Kirwan will coach the Auckland Blues for the next two seasons after the Super Rugby franchise responded to a horrific performance in 2012 by sacking incumbent boss Pat Lam.
Auckland could only manage one semi-final appearance during Lam’s four-year tenure, and won just four of 16 games to finish 12th on the overall ladder this season.
But Lam should be remembered fondly for his faithful service to rugby in the region. He coached Auckland at the domestic level from 2004 to 2008, overseeing two competition victories and an incredible unbeaten season.
The Blues had become chronic underachievers long before Lam took the helm, always boasting a talented roster but rarely living up to the hype. While the coach has fallen on his sword, the players must accept their fair share of the blame.
In order for the franchise to regain its credibility, Kirwan must make consistency the new mantra of his team. The Blues can no longer afford to be sporadically brilliant, drifting in and out of games. The players must learn to ply their trade maturely, with unrelenting intensity, over the full eighty minutes.
Kirwan does know a thing or two about winning. He is a favourite son of Auckland rugby, having represented the region in 142 games as a player and served as an All Black on 96 occasions.
His coaching career has admittedly been less than stellar thus far. Kirwan does have ample experience in the international arena, with stints in charge of both Italy (2002-2005) and Japan (2007-2011).
But both tenures ended in disappointment. Kirwan oversaw a winless Six Nations campaign for the Italians in 2005, and his Japanese side could only manage a draw in last year’s Rugby World Cup.
It should be remembered that Japan are rugby minnows, and that Italy are traditionally the whipping boys of the northern hemisphere. Auckland fans will hope that Kirwan can reach greater heights with a more talented roster at his disposal.
This team undoubtedly has the potential to win a title, but it will never happen while the players indulge in an immature, undisciplined brand of football.
There are no excuses for the Blues’ sub-par performances of recent seasons. As coach, Pat Lam was ultimately accountable for these failures.
Perhaps, as an old Auckland great, Kirwan will be able to deliver his franchise a record more worthy of its proud history.