Rugby Union: Ambitious coach tests All Black youth policy

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The Independent Online
THE NEW ZEALAND Rugby Football Union are justly proud of their youth policy, writes Chris Hewett. It allowed them to fast-track a 19- year-old Jonah Lomu into the Test side in 1994 and enabled a team of talented under-graduates from the All Black Academy to put 50 points on England 18 months ago. But the men in silver-ferned blazers still have an age- before-beauty fixation when it comes to coaching.

When an ambitious young wannabe by the name of Aaron Hankin put himself forward for the national post vacated by John Hart in the aftermath of a disappointing World Cup, he was not only briskly rebuffed, but rather patronisingly advised to re-apply at some indeterminate point in the future. The fact that Hankin is a 17-year-old sixth-former from Napier Boys' High School is neither here nor there - at least, not in his own eyes. "It was a serious application," he insisted yesterday. "I was pretty disappointed when I was rejected."

Still, the precocious Hankin told the union a few home truths. "The coach must be someone removed from the corporate system [a clear dig at Hart the business executive] and know a bit about the game," he said in his application. He should not give up hope. The next World Cup is still four years away.