Wayne Smith to step down from All Blacks

Getty Images     19 May 2017     Getty Images

Smith, who is widely regarded as having one of the smartest rugby brains in world rugby, will leave the All Blacks at the end of the Investec Rugby Championship and take a break from the game.

He played 35 matches, including 17 Tests for the All Blacks between 1980 and 1985 before embarking on his outstanding coaching career.  His coaching involvement with the All Blacks stretches back to 1998 and is highlighted by back-to-back wins at the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and 2015.  In recent years, he's had a specialist role looking after defence.

Smith recently celebrated his 60th birthday and said the time was right to step down from fulltime coaching.

"It's unbelievable to think that I've been involved in playing and coaching with the All Blacks for 20 years, a third of my life.  I've had an incredible time and shared in some fantastic experiences.  But it's time to hang up my coach's whistle for a while, take a bit of a hiatus, freshen up and spend some more time with my wife Trish and our family."

Smith said there were a number of people he needed to acknowledge.

"First and foremost, I want to thank my family for allowing me the opportunity to do what I have done for so many years.  I've never taken their support for granted and it's been huge for me.

"I want to thank Steve Tew, Steve Hansen and Gilbert Enoka who have been constants in my career since our Canterbury days.  They've provided longstanding support and friendship for many years which I'm very thankful for.  I'd also like to acknowledge Sir Graham Henry who gave me the opportunity to return to the All Blacks coaching set up in 2004. I really appreciated that, as well as the guidance he gave me.

"I also want to acknowledge all the All Blacks coaches, management and players I've worked with over the years.  Working alongside these professionals has been massive for me and has kept me up to date with new ideas and stimulated my thinking."

Reflecting on how he got into coaching, Smith said his greatest mentor had been former Children's Commissioner and leading rugby coach, the late Laurie O'Reilly, who died in 1998.  "He was a brilliant man and mentored me through my early days of playing and inspired me to get into coaching."

New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said Wayne Smith, who's known universally as "Smithy", has had a huge influence on our national game.

"On behalf of everyone involved in New Zealand Rugby, I want to publicly acknowledge the incredible contribution 'Smithy' has given to the game.  He has guided numerous players in their careers, from club level through to the All Blacks, is undoubtedly one of the great thinkers in the game and has made as great a contribution to the legacy of the jersey and everything it stands for than anyone else in the modern game.

"Not only did he play for the All Blacks and go on to help coach the team to two Rugby World Cup victories, he also helped coach two Super Rugby clubs, the Crusaders and Chiefs, to Super Rugby championship titles as well.

"On a personal note, I've known Smithy for a very long time, way back when he was the CEO of Hawke's Bay Rugby Union in the 1990s and we then worked together in the formative years of the Crusaders. He's now a very close friend who I trust and respect deeply. I'd also like to thank Trish and their sons Josh and Nick for their support and wish them all well for the future."
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said Smith is "a very special man."

"I would personally like to thank him for all his wisdom, support and hard work over the many years we have worked together. I'd also like to thank him, on behalf of his All Blacks family, for all the help he has given to each and every person involved in the team, not only the current group of players and staff, but all past players and management he has worked with.

"I've been lucky to have spent a lot of time with Wayne Ross Smith over the years, firstly as a player being coached by him and, best of all, coaching alongside him with Canterbury, the Crusaders and the All Blacks. He's a man I have a huge amount of respect for and it's been an absolute pleasure working alongside him. However, it's an even greater honour to be able to call him a mate.

"He has an unrelenting passion for the game, he's always been innovative, prepared to speak his mind, and he's never allowed himself to stop learning. He's always been willing to share himself with others and be open to their ideas.

"Smithy has been a major contributor to not only New Zealand Rugby but also world rugby. Wayne has been such a wonderful ambassador for our game and our country as well.

"I knew it was time to let him finish when he asked my wife to convince me to stop pressuring him into re-signing. It's with sadness that we let him go, but it's also with the confidence of knowing that he has left an everlasting legacy which is all one can expect of an All Black man. Smithy is undoubtedly a true All Black legend.

"I also want to thank Wayne's wife Trish and his family for giving up a husband and a father for so many years and wish them all the best going forward. Families make a lot of sacrifices for those of us involved in the All Blacks and for that we're forever thankful.  They'll always be part of the All Blacks family and will always be welcome whenever they drop in, which we hope will be often."

New Zealand Rugby will now advertise for a replacement for Smith's position, with the aim of having the new coach join the All Blacks coaching team for this year's Investec Rugby Championship, which kicks off in August.

Mini bio - Wayne Ross Smith, CNZM, All Black #806

Born in the Waikato town of Putaruru, Wayne Ross Smith trained as a teacher and moved to Christchurch to further his study and his rugby career.  A sharp, running first five eighth, he made his debut for Canterbury in 1979 and went on to play 69 games through until 1985 in what was a golden era for the province.  He made his All Blacks Test debut in 1980 against Australia and went on to play 35 games, including 17 Tests, over six years. He also played for and captained the New Zealand Sevens team.  After a stint playing and coaching overseas, he returned to New Zealand and into fulltime coaching.  He coached the Crusaders to back-to-back Super Rugby championship titles in 1998 and 1999 and was also Assistant Coach of the All Blacks.  He became All Blacks Head Coach for the 2000 and 2001 seasons before heading overseas to coach English club Northampton.  He returned to the All Blacks in 2004, working alongside Head Coach Sir Graham Henry and Steve Hansen, helping coach the team to numerous victories, including the Rugby World Cup in 2011.  He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in 2012.  The same year he became an Assistant Coach with the Chiefs Super Rugby team, helping the team to back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.  He returned to the All Blacks for the victorious Rugby World Cup campaign in 2015.