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Coaching roles up in air
ITM Cup format uncertain
By CLINTON LLEWELLYN.
Dazzling RWC debut game: Hawke's Bay Magpie Israel Dagg crosses for the opening try of the opening match of
the 2011 Rugby World Cup between the All Blacks and Tonga at Auckland's Eden Park on Friday. Dagg scored a
double in the All Blacks 41-10 victory, with Magpies teammate Sona Taumalolo scoring Tonga's lone five-pointer.
France was pressured all the way in its opening game against fellow Hawke's Bay visitors Japan, eventually
prevailing 47-21. Canada was due to play Tonga in its opener in Whangarei on Wednesday night, before arriving
in Napier on Thursday afternoon to take on France at McLean Park on Sunday night.
Magpie of the year: Magpies second-five Andrew Horrell was the top point scorer in the ITM Cup with 152
points.The Magpies scored the most points of any of the 14 provinces (298) and finished with the highest points
differential of any team (+83).
Photo: FAIRFAX NZ
Celebration: Ben Tameifuna holds up the ITM Cup Championship trophy
after the Magpies won the championship final against the Manawatu Turbos
at FMG Stadium in Palmerston North.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
2011 Hawke's Bay Magpies
Best forward: Hikairo Forbes
Best back: Andrew Horrell
Players' player: Kas
Player of the year: Andrew
Returning to a 14-team provincial
rugby competition next year
would be a slap in the face'' for
the victorious 2011 ITM Cup
Bay Magpies, co-coach Peter Rus-
Russell rated the Magpies'
thrilling 35-30 win over Mana-
watu in the championship final in
Palmerston North two Sundays
ago as even more satisfying than
the three consecutive Air NZ Cup
semifinals he and co-coach Tom
Coventry led the Magpies to from
2007 to 2009.
But since the Magpies won pro-
motion to the ITM Premiership for
next year, there's been specu-
lation about a return to a united
competition when every province
plays each other once. The NZRU
has said tweaks'' could made to
the ITM Cup for next year.
Russell's stance is slightly at
odds with his Hawke's Bay Rugby
Union chief executive Mike
Bishop, who prefers a return to
the old Air NZ Cup format.
That [was] an excellent compe-
tition over the past couple of
years, because at the end of the
day you found out the best team,''
Bishop said on radio.
Russell conceded a return to a
14-team competition was more
attractive to the HBRU from a
commercial standpoint with more
opportunities for showcase games
at McLean Park, but said from a
coach's perspective it would
devalue the efforts of his team in
We worked hard getting our
players motivated to get back into
what was perceived as the tougher
competition, the Premiership, so
for the NZRU to then turn around
and say it was all for nothing and
didn't matter . . . to us that would
be a slap in the face,'' he said.
Russell believed a 14-team com-
petition would require mid-week
games to be played, and with only
a week between next year's
extended Super 15 competition
and the start of the ITM Cup,
players' wellbeing could be at risk.
At the end of the day, there is
only an allocated window for our
competition next year, and I can't
see all games fitting into the win-
dow unless there are midweek
games. The longevity of our
players in a condensed format
would be in question,'' he said.
The work done preparing and
then nursing the players through
this year's condensed ITM Cup
was why he rated the champion-
ship win more satisfying than the
Magpies' three Air NZ Cup semi-
Very much so. Even though it
was a tremendous achievement in
making those semifinals, we went
on and won the goal we set at the
start [of the season].''
While the Magpies had been
prepared for the loss of several
players on Rugby World Cup
duties, injuries to captain Mike
Coman, hooker Hika Elliot and
speedster Ta Umaga-Marshall in
the lead-in to the final had made
the win even more special.
These three players were
instrumental on and off the field,
in terms of leadership and setting
standards. When Mike Coman
was injured, Hika stepped into the
captaincy role admirably. Tu was
the backbone of the backline
through his experience.
In the end, the boys that
replaced them stepped up and
Russell also reserved special
praise for his Samoan players
Anthony Perenise, Kahn Fotuali'i,
Kane Thompson, Kas Leala-
manua and Tongan prop Sona
Taumalolo, for returning from
national duties overseas just two
days before taking on Southland
in a pivotal game.
They arrived back on the
Sunday and started from the
bench for the match on Tuesday.
It showed me how much it meant
to them to play for the Magpies,
and to get us up into the premier-
ship where we belong,'' Russell
Along with the format for next
year's ITM Cup, the future of
Magpies' co-coaches Russell and
Coventry, both off-contract, is
Coventry was appointed co-
coach in recognition of the work
he did during the pre-season when
Russell was an assistant with the
Highlanders. However Russell is
no longer with a Super Rugby
franchise and Coventry will take
up an assistant role with the
Chiefs next year.
Tom will be heavily involved
with the Chiefs right up until the
week prior to the start of the 2012
ITM Cup. He wants to be involved
and we have spoken about his
potential role, but at this stage no
decision has been finalised. For
me, nothing official has been
decided between myself and
Russell hoped to meet with the
union after reviews of players and
management were completed over
the next few weeks.
Several players are already con-
firmed as not returning next
season as they take up overseas
Prop Perenise has signed with
English club side Bath; 2009 All
Black Bryn Evans, who captained
the Magpies in the championship
final, is joining London Irish,
Fotuali'i is going to Ospreys in
Wales and Hikairo Forbes has
linked with French club Bor-
Prop Taumalolo is expected to
make a decision on his future
after the Rugby World Cup. All
Blacks Zac Guildford and Israel
Dagg are contracted to the end of
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