Barnes looking forward to fulltime coaching gig at Chiefs

New Chiefs assistant coach Neil Barnes expects it will take a bit of time to settle into a fulltime rugby job.

The former Taranaki assistant will team up with coach Davie Rennie and fellow assistants Andrew Strawbridge and Kieran Keane after he finishes his role as forwards coach with Canada at the Rugby World Cup.

He takes over at the Chiefs from Tom Coventry who is heading to coach London Irish.

“There will be an expectation from the public that things will just carry on but it’s going to take a bit of bedding in time to get the players’ respect,” Barnes said.

“We are also losing the nucleus of the pack, so there will be new bodies coming in and it will take a bit of time to get my feet on the ground. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a little dip in form, I hope not, and I’ll be doing my best for that not to happen.”

Barnes, 57, said the opportunity to take up the job, which will be on an initial two-year period, had created a good nervousness, despite his extensive coaching CV.

That includes seven senior titles with New Plymouth Old Boys, a stint as Taranaki assistant coach under Kieran Crowley and Adrian Kennedy and the last seven years with Canada, also with Crowley.

“I’m confident in my own ability but you still have to build a relationship with the players. They will have no idea who I am because I’ve been out of the loop here for a long time.”

The opportunity to take up the position came as far back as November after he shared a resource coaching clinic with the All Blacks where Rennie was also in attendance.

The pair had previously worked together with the Hurricanes colts.

“I was debating in my own mind what to do after this world cup and whether it was time to hang up at that level.

“About a month after that [coaching clinic] he gave me a ring and asked me if I was interested in taking over from Tom. It was a long time ago and I feel more confident about it now.”

Accepting the position means a shift to Hamilton and a move off the dairy farm, something he freely admits will take a bit of an adjustment.

“I’ve got no qualms about coaching at that level at all. To me it’s just the that bedding in period, if we get through that we’ll be fine. Once I’d been up there and spent a week with them [Chiefs], even after one day really, I felt comfortable.

“The people are down to earth, Rens [Rennie] is a straight shooter, he says it like it is, and I’m totally comfortable with that because I can’t be bothered with people trying to be clever. I like to know where I stand.”

Barnes has admired the attitude and commitment of the Chiefs in recent years and their ability to front for each game.

“I’m certainly looking forward to the intensity of it.”

As for his input into squad selection, Barnes said that was already happening.

“The top boys are already decided. We’ve already talked about others but we are keen on keeping the door open for players to promote themselves through the ITM Cup.”


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