Kirwan replaces embattled Blues coach Pat Lam
"Sir JK's appointment is a breath of fresh air for the Blues... Good luck!"Featured comment
Former All Black Sir John Kirwan has been appointed the new head coach of the Blues.
He replaces embattled coach Pat Lam, who was sacked after a woeful season.
During Lam's fourth year in charge, the injury-wracked Blues had just four wins from 16 games, finishing in 12th place, despite a late turnaround.
Sir John (47) has signed a two-year contract for the 2013 and 2014 Investec Super Rugby seasons. His contract is effective from August 13.
He played 142 games for Auckland, 96 for the All Blacks (63 test caps) before embarking on an international coaching career in Italy and more recently, Japan. He also had a brief stint with the Blues franchise in 2001 as assistant coach.
"This is an exciting time. I am honoured to be given the opportunity to lead the Blues next season in what I hope will be a new era of success and innovation," he said.
"I'm also thrilled about coming back to New Zealand and home to Auckland after several years overseas. I am a proud Blues man and I started my rugby career in the region so I am really excited about connecting with fans and working with the Blues community.
"There is certainly some hard work ahead and I am looking forward to the challenge," Kirwan said.
Blues chairman Gary Whetton congratulated Sir John on the new position, indicating that the expectations in front of him were significant.
"It's been a tough season for the Blues. Our supporters expect the team to play winning rugby, as we all do. The challenge is clearly laid down for John and we look forward to seeing positive results.
"While there's no denying John has a stellar playing record in New Zealand, our interest was in finding the right coach for the Blues – someone who could coach this team to success – and we've selected John to do that."
Sir John's resume includes head coach of the UK Barbarians (2012), head coach of Japan (2007-11) and head coach of Italy (2002-05).
As a player, he represented the All Blacks from 1984-94, being named All Black of the Year after the Rugby World Cup win in 1987. He represented Auckland from 1983-94.
NZRU general manager of professional rugby Neil Sorensen said the appointment followed an intense interview process and Sir John represented an opportunity for change for the franchise.
He was appointed on the unanimous recommendation of a joint NZRU and Blues panel, which is the standard process for all Investec Super Rugby coach appointments.
"We welcome John back to New Zealand and to Auckland. We know that his appointment will be a popular one. John presented himself very strongly during the recruitment process and we were impressed with the level of preparation and his understanding of what is required to produce a winning Blues team."
Messrs Whetton and Sorensen paid tribute to outgoing coach Pat Lam.
"We know this is a difficult time for Pat, who has been a long and loyal servant to Auckland Rugby and the Blues and we thank him for all he has given to both," Mr Whetton said.
"We know tPat will be very disappointed with this outcome as he had worked tirelessly for the Blues. We will continue to talk to Pat about his future and we wish him well," Mr Sorensen said.
Lam made his Blues coaching debut in 2009, having coached Auckland from 2004-08, including an undefeated season in 2007.
His coaching career followed a successful playing career with Manu Samoa, including three Rugby World Cup campaigns.