Tight-lipped MacDonald remains in frame as an ABs assistant coach

Leon MacDonald, left, and Scott Robertson before the recent Blues v Crusaders match at Eden Park.

Blues head coach Leon MacDonald appears to be very much in the frame to assist Scott Robertson at the All Blacks from next year.

MacDonald, facing the cameras and microphones today for the first time since Robertson was confirmed as Ian Foster’s successor on Tuesday, tried to give nothing away but it seems to be just a matter of time before he is confirmed as one of Robertson’s right-hand men.

“Firstly, Razor getting the job is great news, I’m stoked for him,” MacDonald told reporters today. “He’ll do a great job, he’s been biding his time.

“Around the announcement of the assistants, I think that’s a big part of his gig as well. He’s going to assemble his team. He should have the ability to announce that as and when he wants. As soon as we’re able to talk a bit more about it I’d love to chat but at the moment I’m unable to.”

It sounds like MacDonald has Robertson’s backing but it’s yet to be signed off by New Zealand Rugby, who will presumably have to release him from his current contract and put him on a new one.

Asked whether he had been in talks with Robertson, MacDonald, who was pictured deep in conversation with his Crusaders rival before the recent match won by the visitors at Eden Park, said: “Well, yeah, we’ve been speaking for a period of time.”

Asked whether MacDonald could stay at the Blues should he be appointed an All Blacks assistant coach, he replied: “Potentially. I’m not sure, actually. That’s a good question.”

When queried about whether he would be interested in the job, MacDonald, who represented the All Blacks and Crusaders alongside Robertson and has coached alongside him at the red and blacks as well as the New Zealand Under-20s, said: “The black jersey is the black jersey. If you’ve grown up here watching rugby as a kid as most of us have then it’s the pinnacle, it’s pretty special.”

Making MacDonald’s answers all the more intriguing was the fact that Hurricanes coach Jason Holland, another man said to be on Robertson’s coaching ticket, was far blunter in the face of similar questions a day earlier.

“I’ll put it to bed now,” Holland told reporters. “I haven’t heard from Razor in the last couple of months. We haven’t spoken about it in the last couple of months so unfortunately I haven’t got anything more for you on that.”

Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland.

Asked about the timing of the announcement – incumbent Ian Foster, who did not reapply for the job, has made his opinion quite clear on that – MacDonald said: “I feel like now that it’s done we can get on and support the All Blacks at the World Cup and that’s good.

“Fozzie and the team deserve New Zealand’s support. They’ll be giving their all and training hard. The soap opera is done and dusted. I think we’re all looking forward to watching the All Blacks playing in France and getting the job done.”

As for MacDonald’s most pressing assignment, it’s attempting to get his team up from last Saturday’s 34-28 defeat to the Crusaders for a match against the Force at Eden Park on Sunday afternoon.

To make things more difficult, MacDonald must rest six of his All Blacks: Dalton Papali’i, Beauden Barrett, Finlay Christie, Caleb Clarke, Nepo Lualala and Rieko Ioane.

Midfielder Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is unavailable due to a hand injury suffered last weekend.

The move to rest his top All Blacks was, MacDonald said, “a big call given we’re desperately in need of a win”.

The Blues face the competition-leading Chiefs next weekend.

Leading the Blues against the Force is second-five Harry Plummer, who has returned from a shoulder reconstruction last year and more recently minor surgery for a heart murmur.


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