Former All Blacks skills coach Mick Byrne has signed a four-year contract with the Australian Rugby Union.
Byrne, who worked with the All Blacks through three World Cup campaigns, including two wins, will work with all of Australia’s national teams, Super Rugby clubs and junior representative teams to improve skills across all areas of the game.
Australia’s skills have been heavily criticised this season, particularly in a year of Super Rugby in which no team made it past the first week of finals and finished with a 3-23 record against New Zealand sides.
Byrne has a long involvement with rugby, having started his coaching career as Wallabies kicking coach in 1998, and has been an assistant with Japan and Scotland before his time with New Zealand.
The former AFL player, a 1983 premiership player with Hawthorn, finished up his time with New Zealand after last year’s World Cup, moving to Brisbane earlier this year.
Since being back in Australia, Byrne became involved with former Wallaby Rod Kafer’s SportsTek coaching academy.
Byrne said that had whet his appetite to help develop the next generation of Australian players.
“The challenge to coach some aspiring Rugby players this past year has been really rewarding, especially enabling them to develop their skills and progress with their studies, it’s something I’ve enjoyed,” he told the Australian Rugby Union's official website.
“Being back in Australia, and closer to the Rugby community I have seen some great progress in the game, and I’m looking forward to being part of its development alongside some very talented coaches, players and passionate administrators of the game.
“Working in a high performance environment, with similar minded people is something that I missed in my time away from professional sport. I am grateful for the opportunity by the Australian Rugby Union to work alongside people with similar aspirations for the sport here in Australia.
Ben Whitaker, the ARU's head of high performance, said Byrne would work with all levels of rugby to help improve standards.
“Mick’s appointment is part of the ARU’s strategic plan to engage the best staff with expert capabilities to build key areas across all levels of the sport," he explained.
“As national skills coach, Mick will be working closely with the Wallabies program and across our Super Rugby clubs as well as having an active involvement in developing skills across age grade teams, Sevens and our Wallaroos.
“His success speaks for itself, having played elite sport for many years and transferring that mindset to coaching is something we are very fortunate to have within the Australian Rugby program.”
Byrne’s first challenge will be preparing the Wallabies to face his former charges in the opening Bledisloe, joining the Test fold when the Wallabies begin their preparations in Sydney.