Dave Rennie will replace Gregor Townsend as head coach of Glasgow Warriors next summer and we give you the lowdown on the New Zealander
Dave Rennie will take over from Gregor Townsend as Glasgow Warriors coach next summer. Townsend is leaving his post to take up the Scotland reins in June and the SRU have pulled off quite a coup in bringing in highly-rated Kiwi coach Rennie from the Chiefs for the 2017-18 season.
Rennie, a former Wellington centre, has carved out a hugely successful coaching career, winning NPC, U20 World Championship and Super Rugby titles.
He told Rugby World recently that he was keen to coach in Europe, saying: “It would be a chance to immerse myself in a different culture and see a bit more of the world. Going overseas I’d learn about different competitions and conditions too.”
Signing with Glasgow allows him to achieve that and here the 52-year-old talks through his rugby background and his coaching philosophy…
I was a pretty good club player and a pretty average representative player. But I loved the game and was very passionate about it. I thought a lot about rugby and I was coached by some sharp people in my younger days, who thought about playing the game in different ways. Bill Fleming is a guy not many people will have heard of, but he coached me in my senior rugby days and we played a different style of rugby to everyone else. I really enjoyed that.
I finished playing quite early, at 27. I played 60 games for Wellington from 1986 to 1991, but I had a recurring shoulder injury and was a schoolteacher at the time – both factors in my decision to stop. It turned out well, though, as I got into coaching earlier. My kids were playing footy by that stage, so I coached age-grade at the Upper Hutt club and then worked with the senior sides.
Coming from a teaching background helped. I taught at intermediate school – ages 12 and 13 – so I did a bit of everything and coached a lot of different sports. As a coach and a teacher you work with a variety of people from all walks of life and things like man-management are really important.
Graham Mourie had a massive impression on me. When I was first involved with coaching Wellington (in 1999) he was head coach, and as well as being a former All Blacks captain he was very smart and very innovative. To work with him for three years was good for me.
I spent four years at the International Rugby Academy of New Zealand. Primarily I facilitated the courses for players but there was a bit of crossover with the coaching courses. The great thing about IRANZ is that you’d have a lot of specialists coming in who were strong in certain parts of the game. They were really good coaches and it was a chance to talk rugby with those people and share ideas. It was really good for my knowledge.
I’m constantly looking at the game. It’s such a complex sport while rules and laws change too, so you have to keep up with that. It’s about working out ways to get an advantage, the technical side of the game.
The Super Rugby titles at the Chiefs have been special. The Chiefs had never won anything in the past (before back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013). We brought in some good people, some fresh blood, but we also had guys who’d been around the Chiefs for a while, players like Liam Messam and Craig Clarke, who were desperate for success.
At the Chiefs we’re prepared to attack from anywhere. That’s the style of footy we play but I enjoy all aspects of the game. Historically, the Chiefs have been seen as a pretty brutal side in terms of our carrying and clean and defence, but I generally coach attack.
A big part of what we do is focus on keeping the ball alive. That’s at the contact area, with offloads and so on to put teams under pressure. We put a lot of emphasis on that, just as you train for the set-piece. After all, there are far more rucks, kicks etc in a game than scrums and lineouts. Every player has to understand when to offload and what type of offload, say a basketball pass, will work.
I’ve spent time with different sports. Australian rugby league teams, American Football, basketball, golf… Often it’s just about those opportunities to sit down and share ideas, with both parties walking away with something to help their game. I think shared learning is really good.
My wife and I enjoy landscaping. So invariably if I have a break we’ll be gardening or building – getting the chainsaw out! It normally involves a lot of work but it’s something a bit different.
I did three campaigns with New Zealand U20. It was pretty satisfying to work with the best kids in the country, go away to a world tournament and win all three. The 2009 win was probably more satisfying than the others. In 2008 we had an incredibly strong side and beat England 38-3 in the final. In 2010 it was 62-17 (against Australia), but in 2009, when Aaron Cruden captained the team, we weren’t the best team on paper. England were strong, had a massive forward pack and lots of experience, with 16 guys who had been playing in Premiership teams. I thought the team grew during the tournament and we played really well in the final (beating England 44-28).
It’s the right time for a new challenge. I’m contracted to the Chiefs until the end of 2017 and I’ll have been here for six years by next year so the team will need a new voice and new direction.
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All Kiwis would love to coach the All Blacks. It’s a timing thing and I’ve never been in a hurry. I could have got involved in Super Rugby earlier but did ten years of ITM Cup rugby before I moved up. There’s no doubt I’d love to coach the All Blacks but Steve Hansen is doing a pretty good job.
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Rugby World. For the latest subscription offers, click here.