Former All Black Xavier Rush has stepped down as Auckland defence coach to return to Wales for personal reasons.
The 38-year-old was in his second spell as Auckland defence coach, but last week returned to Wales, where he spent eight years at the Cardiff Blues.
The timing is far from ideal for Auckland, just two weeks out from the start of the ITM Cup, but coach Paul Feeney knows it was the right call for Rush to be with his family.
"He went back to Wales for personal reasons," Auckland coach Paul Feeney told Stuff.co.nz.
"He got hold of me and said he needed to stay over there. Family comes first so I respect that.
"He did a great job last year and is passionate about Auckland. I was looking forward to working with him for a second year. Our group will certainly miss him but he's got to do what's right for his family so he won't be coaching with us.
"That's just the nature of the beast in sport these days. Obviously it was a bit disruptive. Rush was a big part of our squad but we just have to sort it out and make sure it doesn't affect our preparation."
Auckland and Chiefs flanker Sean Polwart will help Feeney to coach the defence as he continues to be sidelined by concussion symptoms.