Wellington – New Zealand indicated on Saturday they were close to winning the highly contested battle to secure the services of coaching guru Wayne Smith, saying Saturday an announcement is imminent.
Smith’s name has been linked to several teams in recent years and only a month ago reports from England said he was on the brink of joining the Harlequins.
However, the word in New Zealand rugby circles is that a deal has been struck to keep Smith with the All Blacks, although NZ Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew would only say an official statement would be made soon.
“The key thing now is to lock up a full (coaching) group for this year, which we’re very close to doing,” he told Radio Sport.
Pressed whether that included Smith, Tew added: “That’s the bit I just alluded to, so we’re not far away from making some announcements about that.”
A two-year deal would keep Smith with the All Blacks until after the British and Irish Lions tour in 2017.
Smith, nicknamed “the professor”, is widely regarded as one of the code’s best analytical brains and was a key member of the All Blacks coaching staff when they won the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.
He stepped away from international coaching in 2012 and helped guide the Chiefs to two Super Rugby titles before being recalled to help the All Blacks retain the World Cup last year.
The 17-Test All Black emerged as a successful coach when he guided the Crusaders to win the 1998 and 1999 Super titles and took over as head coach of the All Blacks for two years after that.
Smith worked in England as coach of the Northampton Saints for three seasons after resigning as All Blacks coach in 2001.
He has since resisted all offers to move overseas citing his allegiance to New Zealand.