Former England coach Stuart Lancaster is helping Counties Manukau prepare for their upcoming Mitre 10 Cup Premiership campaign.
Since resigning as England boss, after their humiliating exit from the Rugby World Cup on home soil last year, Lancaster has been exploring how different professional sporting teams operate.
He was contacted by new Counties coach Darryl Suasua who asked Lancaster if he was interested in helping for a short time and Lancaster has been staying at Suasua’s house while in New Zealand.
“I’m here to pass on what I’ve learnt on and off the field, in terms of building a long term high performance team and help out in terms of game plan and defensive systems,” Lancaster told Fairfax Media.
“I’ve coached England nearly 50 times, so I think I can pass a bit onto the coaching staff here.”
And Lancaster has been impressed with Counties’ players in their young Mitre 10 Cup squad. He warned, however, that the old adage that New Zealand always has an advantage over other countries because so many childeren play the game, may no longer be the case.
“The U20 World Cup has demonstrated that England has narrowed the gap,” he said.
“They’ve won it three times in the last four years, so the player development system is very good.
“We’ve got a very big player base, a good academy programme now, a good international age grade programme.
“There are a lot of things England has got right. So the gap has narrowed, but where New Zealand has still got the edge is the quality and depth at the top end.”
Lancaster, who was at Counties’ games against the All Blacks and Northland in Pukekohe on Friday, said he would like to return to coaching on a full-time basis, ideally at Super Rugby level although he’s still trying to land a job.
“I would like to coach in Super Rugby at some point, two New Zealand jobs have been appointed [Crusaders and Highlanders] and so has the Queensland Reds job,” he added.
“I don’t think I’ll be coaching in Super Rugby next season, because there isn’t going to be the opportunity.
“So I’ll wait to see what turns up, I’ve got lots of projects to get on with when I get back to England, so I have plenty to keep me busy.
“But I would like a full-time job back in rugby at some point, whether that’s in France, a different international team or the southern hemisphere, I’m quite open minded.”