New Zealand coach David Kidwell.

Late coach change no drama for Kiwis

It is another pre-tournament distraction they could have done without, but the Kiwis insist the last-minute loss of assistant coach Garth Brennan won't impact their preparation for the World Cup.

With Brennan having to stand down from the position after being confirmed as the new coach of the Gold Coast Titans, New Zealand have drafted Ben Gardiner in to fill the position nine days out from their tournament opener against Samoa in Auckland.

It follows the shock withdrawals of several frontline players days before the 24-man World Cup squad was named earlier this month, but coach David Kidwell said his close relationship with Gardiner would ensure there was little disruption.

"I found out late Tuesday [that Brennan had the Titans job]. We wanted to make it a seamless transition, so I gave Ben a call… he was here by midnight," Kidwell said

"I've known Ben for over eight years now and we have a really close relationship. 

"He was one of the two candidates [for the original assistant job], it was out of him and Garth Brennan.

"Ben will be looking after the defensive side of things, we have been talking a lot throughout this year about it."

 


‌Gardiner spent 2017 as an assistant coach of the South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL team and head coach of the North Sydney Bears in the Intrust Super Premiership, and previously coached the Rabbitohs to the 2010 Holden Cup Grand Final alongside Kidwell.

Despite the late notice, Gardiner said he was already well informed of the plans for team thanks to a couple of meetings with Kidwell over lunch in Sydney.

"We spent some time together even just in the last couple of weeks, talking about the camp and running a few things off each other, so I was pretty much on board with what was happening before I even arrived," Gardiner said.

"I don't mind about being plan B, now I'm plan A… what's happened before this doesn't matter, it's about what happens from this point moving forward.

"It's an absolute privilege and responsibility to be here."

Meanwhile Kidwell wished Brennan all the best with his new role at the Titans.

"Obviously this highlights the calibre of the coach Garth is, with other organisations also wanting his services," Kidwell said.

"As disappointed as we are not to have him on board, we're really happy for him."