Saints Q&A: CEO Darbon discusses appointment of top target Boyd

On Monday, Saints' long-term future finally became clear.

Tuesday, 30th January 2018, 1:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th January 2018, 1:32 pm
Chris Boyd will be the new Saints boss from August (picture: Steve Haag)

Following the departure of Jim Mallinder in December, the club had been on the hunt for a new director of rugby.

Australian Alan Gaffney arrived as a coaching consultant until the end of the season, while Saints sought a man to take them forward for years to come.

And at the start of this week, the identity of that man was revealed.

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Kiwi Chris Boyd will arrive on a three-year deal from Super Rugby side the Hurricanes in August, bringing with him a wealth of experience and plenty of knowledge of how to spark success.

Here, Saints CEO Mark Darbon discusses the appointment of the 59-year-old, including how it will impact on recruitment and the roles of the existing coaching team.

Firstly, Mark, how pleased have you been by the positive reaction to the appointment?

"It's brilliant. He was top of our list and we managed to land him, which we're really positive about.

"Unsurprisingly, the reaction has been really positive.

"I don't think many people expected that Chris would be the guy, but as soon as anyone looks at his track record, they'll be really delighted.

"Who have you spoken to about Chris and how much did you know about him before?

"His track record is so overtly full of success so you don't have to look too far to realise what you can get with Chris.

"He's taken a struggling Hurricanes side and achieved brilliant results over the past three years.

"Firstly, his CV is impressive in his own right and then we took input and thought from some people along the journey because we had so much interest in the role that we needed to screen the candidates in the right way.

"One of those people was Wayne Smith, who has been really helpful through the process.

"But we didn't just speak to Wayne about Chris, we spoke to him about a number of the candidates and we also spoke to a number of other people.

"It's been a lengthy process, but we're just ecstatic to have got the guy who was our No.1."

Will Chris immediately have an input in re-signing players and recruitment? Is he the man who makes the final decisions on who stays or goes?

"Chris is going to have a busy few months because he's still in the lead role with the Hurricanes and they're about to start their Super Rugby season.

"That's his full-time job, but he's the kind of guy who wants to get involved so there will be regular dialogue between Chris, Alan Gaffney and Alan Dickens.

"Unquestionably, we will be talking to Chris about some of the things we've got to work through on the retention and recruitment side.

"Yes, he will be involved, even though he's plying his trade in New Zealand."

How much work have you got to do on retention and recruitment? Ben Foden recently said there wasn't anyone sorting contracts out - would you dispute that?

"That's slightly been overstated. There are some players who are out of contract at the end of this season and there are some decisions to be made.

"One of the reasons we're so pleased to be able to announce Chris at this stage is that it helps up formulate and cement the thinking ahead of next season.

"It is good timing and we know we've still got some work to do, but I'm confident we'll make the right choices."

The club was recently linked with Josh Bassett, but he eventually re-signed with Wasps. What can you tell us about the situation with him?

"We're talking to a lot of players - as are all the clubs, it's that time of year.

"You hear a lot of rumours about players at lots of clubs.

"We are very excited by the players we're already bringing in, notably Dan Biggar.

"We're really excited by the players we've re-signed early and are keeping at the club for the future.

"There are some more decisions we've got to make and we've got a lot of positive conversations under way about players who will be joining the squad.

"I actually think we're in a pretty healthy situation, both with the players we've already got and some of the conversations we're in about the future."

Will Chris be able to bring his own coaching staff in and have you had those conversations yet?

"The one thing that is missing from Chris's CV is experience in the Premiership.

"He's an admirer, obviously, and that's one of the reasons why he's excited about this job, but he's the first to say he'd like to have English coaches around him who know the league.

"They can help him get up to speed and be as successful as possible so what we haven't done here is hire Chris and all of his existing team - far from it.

"Chris now needs to have a dialogue with our coaches and work out his plan.

"Of course, we're encouraging him to review every aspect of our rugby setup, that's his brief and we need him to do that if we're to be successful.

"We've hired him, we've got our man and now he needs to have individual conversations with our coaches and the rest of the staff to formulate a plan going forward."

As you mentioned earlier, Chris is very busy with the Hurricanes, so how difficult will it be for him to juggle all of that as he's currently on the other side of the world?

"He is going to be a very busy guy over the next few months, but the nice thing is that there are a couple of windows in the Super Rugby season where he's going to be in South Africa.

"We're hoping we can get him up here for a few days, maybe in March and then again before the summer.

"He's been to the club before and that was a big help for us in this process.

"He visited the club when Wayne Smith was here in 2004 and he talks really eloquently about getting under the skin of the club, enjoying the club, enjoying the facilities.

"He's very positive on our supporter base.

"He knows the environment a little bit but if we can take the opportunity to bring him here when he's got a couple of windows in his season, that will only help us to bring success for next season onwards."

Will he be in charge for the first pre-season fixture?

"We're hoping so.

"The exact date depends on when the Hurricanes finish their Super Rugby season.

"If they go all the way to the final, it's on August 4 and he would jump on a plane immediately after that.

"Worse case scenario for us, he'll be here on August 5, but it could be slightly earlier, maybe the latter part of July, depending on how the Hurricanes do.

"Obviously we're keen to get him here as soon as possible and he's keen to get going."

How many times have you met him and what can you tell the Saints fans about what he's like as a guy and as a character?

"One of the things we wanted was to make sure that whoever we hired not only had a brilliant track record from a rugby perspective - and we feel like Chris is one of the genuinely world class coaches out there - but the fit was also important.

"We wanted someone who could get their head around the ethos of this great club and we were really impressed by Chris's character. He's a really affable bloke, really easy to talk to.

"He'll get on really well with people here, but at the same time, he's clearly pretty steely, he'll know what he wants and he'll build a plan to return us to success."