Wayne Smith turns down England as Mike Catt is confirmed

Wayne Smith has decided to stay in New Zealand for personal reasons rather than join the England coaching team.

Wayne Smith said: “I was very impressed with Stuart [Lancaster] when I met him. He is an outstanding individual and will be a great plus for England Rugby and anyone who works in his team will be very fortunate. England have some fantastic young players and the opportunity to work with them ahead of the 2015 World Cup was very appealing. I also want to compliment the RFU on the way they have conducted the process. They have acted with integrity, diligence and patience.”

“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 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.”

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “Wayne rang me this 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. I enjoyed meeting him and wish him all the best for the future in his coaching role with the Chiefs. All my energy will now go into preparing for an exciting tour to South Africa and I will reassess the coaching team post tour prior to the start of the QBE Internationals.”

The RFU also announced that Mike Catt will join the England coaching team for the five-match tour of South Africa next month. Mike will leave London Irish after their final Aviva Premiership match with Gloucester Rugby at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday and start work with England on May 7 through to June 30.

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “Mike has played at the top level and is highly respected. 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. He is experienced in playing in South Africa and this will be invaluable as we prepare for this challenging and exciting tour.

“While Mike, Graham Rowntree and myself will lead on the coaching for the tour we will also have Jon Callard and Simon Hardy as part of the coaching team. Jon and Simon know the players well from their roles with the Saxons. They will assist in the preparation and support to the midweek teams and they will provide excellent specialist support in their individual areas with Jon supporting our kickers and Simon our hookers throughout the whole squad.”

Mike Catt said: “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 are doing. There are some talented young players coming through and the chance to work with them for the Barbarians game and the tour is really exciting.

“I’ll be sad to leave London Irish and I want to say a huge thanks to all the players and coaches I have worked with since 2004. Toby Booth in particular deserves massive credit for what and how he has taught me. Thanks also to the supporters who have been brilliant over the last eight years and I will take away some lasting memories.”

25 thoughts on “Wayne Smith turns down England as Mike Catt is confirmed

  1. Gutted that Smith doesn’t want the job – I have fond memories from his tenure as DoR at Saints and I’m sure he’d do the same for England.

    Nevertheless, England have to make sure they don’t mess this up. Can’t see Catt as the long-term appointment, but we’ll have to see what happens in the SA tour. Surely Brian Ashton is a contender for the job – well known as an attacking guru in the international game, and has decent test experience too (taking an average side to a world cup final isn’t to be sniffed at!). Being an assistant coach rather than the boss would suit him perfectly – he never coped well with the media/commercial side of the job .

    1. Ashton WAS a great coach, but his best acheivements were 10 years ago, is he even coaching anymore? I think we need to look to the future, and we really need someone who has experienced rugby outside the Premiership – we’re too much in a bubble and need a different perspective. Can’t see it happening though. I reckon Catt will get it long term.

  2. What a shambles. Any hopes that a change at the top at the RFU would bring some professionalism have been dashed by this appalling recruitment process. I assume Catt will get the post subject to a successful trial, as Lancaster did and we can merrily go into the next world cup with a coaching team bereft of experience but full of spirit.

    Anyone else concerned by Ritchie? Not only has overseen this, but also wants to get rid of Blackett (the seemingly only good egg) and appointed cuddley Bill as the Chairman.

    I hope I’m wrong but I see another 4 years of mediocrity ahead.

    1. How is it the selection process’s fault? I think Smith makes it pretty clear they couldn’t have done anything to convince him…

      1. Have to say that I agree with Nick on this particular matter. Smith said the RFU did everything right – it was just that he didn’t want to move away again for the time being.

      2. 1) They exclude people like Kirwan, for lack of experience then hire the most inexperienced coach available
        2) They hire said coach on the back of the collective effort of a coaching team, without checking that the collective could be hired
        3) Having failed to get Farrell (above) they then make a public effort and fail to get Smith

        Farrell’s availability/ willingness should have been ascertained prior to appointing Lancaster. Smith’s availability/ willingness should have been ascertained prior to the Farrell anouncement, as a contingency (if there had been a doubt as to Farrell’s intentions). Instead we lurch from one interim arrangment to another. It is amateurish to say the least.

        Smith is being polite. I could sense a week ago that he was not going to join the set up, but again no allowance seems to have been made by the RFU. So we go into the SA tour with an untried set up, after which we wil hasitly try and get a permanent set up in place before the AIs.

        1. And in addition, because this has been conducted so publicly, any subsequent appointment will know they were third choice which means any chance of a high calibre appointee has all but diminished.

          Look at Wales with gatland and edwards or South Africa with Meyer and his coaching team. Their Union’s identified who the best candidate(s) were, without the need for headhunters, committees and in a short space of time. The RFU has been slow and overly bureacratic and allowed this to be played out in public via the media, just as what happened over the SCW elite director fiasco.

        2. I was not impressed with the handling of Kirwin. Would he consider the assistant coach role or is he now too p*ssed as a result of the way he was treated? I don’t see how Farrell availability or otherwise should have influenced the Lancaster Vs Mallett debate, but I am amazed the RFU botched getting him released. Lancaster must have asked him if he was happy for Sarries to be approached so I’m sure he could have been obtained.

  3. Genuinely gutted about Smith.

    Also agree Catt can’t be a long term option yet. His position is temporary right?

    I agree Matt, Ashton could be an option. I’m not sure he would want to take the job after the way he was treated before. I think he was underated as an England manager. At the same time i’d rather get some sort of southern hemisphere attacking don fresh influence and new ideas etc…

    Eddie Jones maybe? Not sure what hes up to or if he would be happy working under Lancaster but hes the man that turned a solid but one dimensional SA team into a more rounded attacking side. Exactly what England need.

    Shaun Edwards was bigging up Alex King in the Guardian the other day but i’d rather we had some experiance somewhere on the coaching team.

  4. Not the most experienced coaching team of all time, so we might have a few bumps in the road to come, but hopefully things will move forward under Lancaster.

  5. OK the attempt to get Faz out of the Fez looks and smells like another RFU botch job, but I have no issue with the way they tried to secure Smith (no needless headhunting firms involved, just a chat over dinner). Smith clearly gave it serious consideration.

    Still it’s a bad blow as he would have brought in what we currently lack. Be interested to see how Catt goes, I think he is the right call for the summer tour, if he we can see progress on the pitch are they likely to look elsewhere? Looking at a long shot I really like Jamie Joseph’s Highlanders this year (he also has a coaching win against England). The pace, continuity, skill, work at breakdown in attack and defence have been great to watch, so if we are looking for someone to bring in new ideas and work in an integrated rather than silo like environment I think he could add a lot.

    I can’t say I’m too thrilled about the midweek coaches, a lot of potential 2015 young talent may be getting a runout in these 2 fixtures and I would have liked them to approach someone like a Baxter to run this team.

  6. Personally don’t see what we have got to lose to be honest going with a temporary coach for the tour. If it goes badly then we can examine other options, but if it goes well then there is a chance we can look to keep the same structure.

    The only thing I would say England would be wise to do is to offer Catt a rolling short term deal, possibly to the end of the next 6 nations to start with should he prove successful.

    1. Agree for the summer tour, but if we are still hedging our bets until after next 6N we will have already played 12 of our 37 games before next RWC. So I think we have to sort this out by AIs at latest.

  7. Well I for one think this as good a Coaching team as possible. Mike catt will do a great job.

    London Irish Back play has always been exciting to watch and effective. Agree farrell was a good choice but look at how Saracens backs play.

    I know what I would rather watch.

    I for one look forward to seeing the tests this summer.

    Go England!

      1. They’ve scored 40 tries and let in 41. Hardly a glowing report!

        Like many others here, I’m deeply disappointed that Wayne Smith has decided to decline the position. He would have been exactly what England needed in terms of experience and helping provide attacking flair. However, it appears to be a family decision so perhaps working with England is no longer viewed as the poisoned chalice it once was (or perhaps I’m being naïve!).

        Maybe, just maybe, Catt could be the answer long term, but alongside a defensive coach with proven international skills, say former France defence coach Dave Ellis? In Ellis you have a coach who has experienced the game outside of England and semi-helped coach a team to a World Cup final.

        1. Nope. Seems SL has confirmed Catt has the defence brief and the chance to do the role long term.

    1. Would like to see someone like Dave Ellis added to the team if Catt stayed to have a defence specialist. I don’t think a 4 man team is excessive, e.g Wales have Gatland (head), Howley (assistant), Edwards (defence), McBride (forwards) and Jenkins (skills). Plus if Catt is responsible for defence all the Kiwis will still be laughing about the Lomu tackle:-)

    2. Agree about Catt, but whilst you say you’d rather watch London Irish play, I’m sure they would swap it for Sarries table position.

  8. For what its worth I’d definitely bring in Dave Ellis. France had one of, if not THE meanest defence in the world cup. Second, I’d run along to leinster, open up the rfu’s considerable wallet and offer them as much as they want to release Schmidt. Anyone who watched the HC semi final on Sunday can see the guy obviously knows what he’s doing and its working damn well.

  9. Greatest respect for Mike Catt as a player; however very little or no experience coaching at international level. Is this another “Johnson type appointment” I find it difficult to understand why the richest union in the world can’t attract quality coaches. Perhaps a proper shake up in the blazers is required rather than a shuffle; is there anyone in the RFU hierarchy with balls big enough to do it!!

    1. Well Catt may not have any international coaching experience but he has plenty of international experience which will be valuable to this England team. He is developing in to a solid coach and this experience should be invaluable in his and the teams development.

      I can’t see it being that bad an option to be honest. Any other prefered candidates aren’t available, or have turned it down so we don’t have a wealth of options to go to. It is an eminently sensible option given the circumstances. The only thing I think England need to do is marry the skills of Dave Ellis to the coaching set up and I think we’ll go pretty well.


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