Today the SRU announced that former All Black assistant coach and Super 15’s victorious Waikato Chiefs head coach Wayne Smith will tour Scotland in October.
Smith will work with Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby for a week each, as well as holding four separate workshops with coaches at ‘various levels of the game’.
Smith said of this trip that “I’m really excited to visit Scotland and share some ideas. I have Scottish heritage and have always cherished touring here in the past with the All Blacks.
“Every coach has different thoughts on how to play the game and hopefully my Antipodean ideas will stir some interest! In my experience, every time you share an idea, you get a few back. From that perspective, I’m sure we’ll have some great conversations over the two weeks and we’ll all get something from them.”
This may sound wonderful, and no doubt it is well worth Wayne’s while, financially. However, this is an initiative that may not be as shiny and exciting as it first appears.
With Gregor Townsend eternally referred to as a student of the game, it would certainly be within his interest, alongside his Warriors, to listen to the man who has overseen so many successful attacking raids. Townsend already has previous, after all, having spent time recently observing the Chiefs.
Edinburgh, too, could look to Smith and listen to the man’s well publicised views on using turnover ball. That is right up Edinburgh’s alley, and the sniping 9 still in Michael Bradley’s head will have certainly had his curiosity piqued.
It has not been mentioned, but hopefully the young Sevens contracted players get to meet with him, too. After all, the younger guys are there to develop for the 15-a-side game.
This is all fine and good. It will benefit athletes at the peak of their fitness and it will certainly get Sky Sports, ESPN and the broadsheets that tiny bit more interested in the two Scots sides. There may be a few more snappers at HQ, and there will certainly be at least one more open training session on either coast.
The potential issue, though, is the open workshops. It could benefit the lower tiers of the game, that is for sure, but the term “Antipodean ideas” sits as easily as a Syrup of Figs milkshake.
Rugby has been professional for long enough. Yet there is still the hang-up on Southern Hemisphere rugby. It is still placed on a pedestal. Despite a different English system that cowed the world in ’03, it is still not as regarded as the systems in the other hemisphere.
As well as this, generations of Scots teams have faced down spittle-edged rants about playing the Scottish way. Attacking when cornered; offloading out of trouble; defending like lives are the least of your worries.
All levels of coaching below the professional and international ranks should be given a message. Scotland and its sides should have a plan for how to develop players. It should be unwavering, so that every kid has a chance of developing.
If a big name lecturer from under the equator can butt in on such systems and deliver his bit then hopefully his words are paid with enough respect to use them properly. Make his ways part of Scottish coaching manuals. Make sure the message is relayed to all of the game. Keep the cameras out of these seminars so that it is just the man and his crowd.
It should be asked if Wayne’s word is in line with the coaching plans for Scottish youth, or if such plans are in place. Because plans must be in place, right?
This could be something great, but the depth of the initiative must be less shallow than press releases suggest. Otherwise this flying visit will end up in one session going for one region, and it will be lost amongst all the other individual sessions that local coaches sit in on every season.