By Greg Stutchbury
TOKYO (Reuters) – All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams has urged New Zealand Rugby to consider providing some diversity in the side’s coaching setup with a call for pathways for Maori or Pacific islander coaches.
Williams, who is of Samoan descent, argued on Monday that with an increasing number of players having Maori or Pasifika heritage coaches of similar backgrounds could potentially get more out of them.
“There’s a lot of coaches that will be leaving at the end of this year,” Williams told reporters in Tokyo on Monday as the All Blacks prepared for their bronze medal playoff with Wales on Friday.
“One thing that I’d probably put to (New Zealand Rugby) would be that it would be good to see a Pacific Islander or a Maori in the coaching system that would have a bit of influence.
“Because the way the game is going today, there’s a lot of island boys, a lot of Maori boys that play for the All Blacks.
“I’m just thinking how can we get a lot more out of those boys and I know that there’s a bit of space here for that growth.”
More than half of the All Blacks World Cup squad have Maori or Pasifika descent, while virtually all of the All Blacks’ current coaching setup is Pakeha (European).
With head coach Steve Hansen stepping down after the World Cup, questions have begun to be asked as to who might succeed him.
Assistant coach Ian Foster said he was keen to step up into the job after eight years as Hansen’s deputy and Williams was asked on Monday what qualities Foster might bring to the head coaching role.
The 34-year-old, who is also expected to walk away from New Zealand rugby after the tournament, however, sidestepped the question and instead made his plea to administrators to look at the development pathways for Pasifika and Maori coaches.
New Zealand’s population of about 4.8 million people is predominantly of European descent (70%), while Maori comprise about 16.5% and those who identify as having Pasifika heritage make up about 8.1%, according to Stats NZ.
The country’s largest city, Auckland, is the biggest Polynesian city in the world.
There have been several Maori head coaches of New Zealand’s Super Rugby sides since the competition was founded in 1996 but just two Pasifika head coaches — Pat Lam and Tana Umaga — who led the Auckland Blues.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)