All Blacks expect to feel the Byrne

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The All Blacks are expecting Australia's national skills coach Mick Byrne to have a strong influence on the Wallabies, but it won’t happen overnight.

Byrne has crossed the Tasman after 11 years with New Zealand, in which he helped deliver two World Cups.

Mick Byrne has been appointed national skills coach for Australian rugby. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyAll Blacks outside back Ben Smith said Byrne had improved New Zealand’s kicking strategy in his time with the team, something that has been a major talking point for the Wallabies since June.

“He's really good with the skillsets and I think the last few years he's been able to improve our kicking game and how we execute that tactical kicking game so he's a big part in that,” he said.

The Wallabies have been singing the praises of Byrne since he joined the ARU as national skills coach, helping backs and forwards alike, though they’ve been playing down the immediate impact he could have.

All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock said any skill shifts would take time, but he expected their fierce rivals to have made some strides already.

“No matter what skill you're working on it takes a long time to break an old habit but we're always striving, all professional rugby players are striving to get better so they'll be working on it pretty intently as well.”

Sam Whitelock has known MIck Byrne for years. Photo: Getty ImagesSmith said they weren’t too worried by Byrne’s trans-Tasman switch, despite his influence.

“That's the way of professional sport now is that some coaches might be round different environments and take up different challenges,” he said.

“I think that's just the part of the way professional sport is now so as players we realise it's just how it is.”

Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley said last week that the Wallabies would be taking a leaf out of the 2011 Queensland Reds’ handbook and trying to introduce more attacking kicking but Smith said he wasn’t worried about their change in strategy.

“I'm sure the Aussies will be planning their game plan and trying to mix things up but for us it's just really getting our attitude right this week and looking forward to the challenge,” he said.