Murrayfield announced a genuine coup for Scottish rugby yesterday with the news that Gregor Townsend would be replaced at Glasgow Warriors by Dave Rennie, currently coach of the New Zealand-based Chiefs.
Rennie, who has signed a two-year deal, will take over at the starting of the 2017/18 season when Townsend leaves to become Scotland head coach. One New Zealand media outlet has already suggested that Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is being lined up as Rennie’s replacement at the Chiefs
Rennie, 52, will follow former Edinburgh skipper Todd Blackadder in making the move from a New Zealand Super Rugby franchise to a European club, with the former All Black No 8 already settled at Bath after replacing Mike Ford over the summer.
Rennie is a former Wellington centre who has already tasted significant success in his own back yard. He won the National Provincial Cup with Wellington at the first time of asking back in 2000. He had a brief spell as assistant coach at the Hurricanes before moving north and winning back-to-back Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs in his first two years at the helm, beating the Sharks and the Brumbies in successive finals.
He was the first Kiwi coach to win the title on his debut and while he was less successful this season it was by a matter of inches as his team lost out to eventual winners the Hurricanes at the semi-final stage, undone by two moments of magic from All Black fly-half Beauden Barrett.
Prior to that Rennie’s main claim to fame was three U20 titles with the Junior All Blacks in the annual World Championships between 2008 and 2010.
“I am delighted to be appointed to the head coach role at Glasgow Warriors,” said Rennie in a statement. “The opportunity to work with such an exciting group of players at a club that has such big ambitions and a great winning culture was one I couldn’t turn down. It’s no secret I have been interested in coaching abroad.
“As a coach you want to test yourself in new environments with new challenges. The work Gregor and his team have done at the Glasgow Warriors speaks for itself and I am very motivated to continue that success and build the club. “Steph [his wife] and I are really looking forward to a new phase in our lives. We are really impressed with what we have seen in Glasgow, the history, the people, the lifestyle. The Warriors are really aspirational, have good people and have created a great culture under Gregor. But there’s a big job to be done here in 2017 before we pack our bags.”
In opting to go for Rennie it is clear that Murrayfield are replacing like for like at Glasgow. While with the Chiefs Rennie preached a relentless gospel of running rugby and was wholly unimpressed by reputation.
“We targeted a lot of hard-working, honest buggers who would put it all out on the field week after week,” is how the Kiwi coach elegantly explained his selection philosophy following his first Super Rugby title in 2012.
In yesterday’s press announcement the SRU chief executive Mark Dodson was understandably upbeat after procuring such a prominent New Zealand coach who might have had his eyes set on bigger things closer to home.
“It is a clear indication of the progress Scottish Rugby, and Glasgow Warriors, are making that we can attract a coach of Dave’s experience to Scotland to work with our players,” said Dodson.
What is less clear is what exactly tempted Rennie to join a Scottish pro-team which, for all its undoubted improvement, has yet to appear in the quarter finals of the European Cup?
Money will help ease the move but the fact that Steve Hansen has agreed terms with the New Zealand Rugby Football Union to take the All Blacks through to the 2019 World Cup might have nudged Rennie, one of his potential replacements, to look elsewhere.