Northampton Saints have appointed Chris Boyd as their new director of rugby, with the current Hurricanes head coach planning to transform the struggling Premiership side into “one of the biggest and best teams in Europe” once he takes the reins at Franklin's Gardens from next season.
The 59-year-old New Zealander will head to England once his Super Rugby commitments with the Wellington-based Hurricanes comes to an end, and will be in place for the start of the new season following the dismissal of Jim Mallinder last month.
Australian Alan Gaffney will remain in temporary charge until the end of the season, with Saints still languishing down in 10th position in the Premiership table despite an upturn in form upon Gaffney’s arrival.
“I am humbled and excited to be joining Saints,” Boyd said. “Northampton Saints is a club I have admired all of my coaching career.
“I visited Franklin’s Gardens for a week in 2004 when Wayne Smith was head coach, and remember the passion of the Saints supporters and the strong culture at the club.
“Franklin’s Gardens is an excellent stadium with first-class facilities, and when [chairman] John White and [chief executive] Mark Darbon outlined the vision for Saints, it was a project I very much wanted to be part of.
“The club’s ambitions match my own – I am confident I can help the Saints become one of the biggest and best teams in Europe. I have always aspired to coach in the Aviva Premiership and I am relishing the opportunity to work with this talented squad of players.”
Boyd, who also has previous Super Rugby experience with South African side the Sharks, led the Hurricanes to their first ever title in 2016 a year after arriving in Wellington and taking the side to the 2015 final, where they narrowly lost out to the Highlanders. His other most notable role came in coaching the New Zealand Under-20s between 2011 and 2014. In-between his assistant role with the Sharks and the ‘Baby Blacks’, Boyd assisted Tonga head coach Isitolo Maka at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Mallinder was dismissed by Saints following 10 years as director of rugby after this side lost eight Premiership and European games on the spin, with Northampton chief executive Mark Darbon insisting that they would begin a search for a “world class” option to replace him. Former Saracens and New South Wales Waratahs director of rugby Gaffney was brought in as a temporary fix to see out the remainder of the season – which has seen Saints eliminated from the European Champions Cup and fall 10 points off qualification for next season’s tournament – but their search for a permanent replacement led the board to New Zealand, where negotiations with Boyd proved successful.
Boyd will bring more than 30 years of coaching experience to Saints, with Darbon stressing that the style of play deployed by him at the Hurricanes helped him stand out from the rest of the candidates.
“We are absolutely delighted Chris has accepted our offer to join the club,” said Darbon. “The club conducted an extensive search and Chris stood out as the exceptional candidate.
“We said at the start of the process that we were looking for a world class director of rugby, and we’ve secured one of the very best. Chris’ CV speaks for itself; his achievements in Super Rugby are notable and his experience with the New Zealand age group sides is impressive. His track record of building a championship-winning side with a mix of experienced and young players was exactly what we were looking for.
“His teams play attacking rugby and Chris is well known as a deep thinker with an immense rugby brain who communicates well with his players. We look forward to him taking charge later this year.”
The appointment of Boyd will not only bring a wealth of experience and coaching talent to the East Midlands, but it also opens up a potential pathway for the club to attract talent from New Zealand, given that Boyd’s contract runs until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup when a number of All Blacks will become available as their contracts expire.
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