VIDEO: Cooper makes shock decision to quit Chiefs
NEWS: Colin Cooper quit the Chiefs Thursday with a year still on his coaching contract, saying he was leaving for the long-term good of the New Zealand Super Rugby team.
Cooper guided the Chiefs to the quarterfinals in the two seasons he was in charge but faced criticism earlier this year after the team made a poor start to their campaign.
He said he wanted to spend more time with his family and the time was right for someone else to take over.
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ANNOUNCEMENT | Colin Cooper steps down as Gallagher Chiefs head coach.
A top man & true legend of NZ rugby will be missed. Thanks for everything Coops! 👏
— Gallagher Chiefs (@ChiefsRugby) June 27, 2019
“I believe the team and the club are bigger than the individual and the club comes first,” he said.
“With next year the start of a new World Cup cycle, I believe it is the right time to step aside.
“There is a good crew of players and staff here who are committed to carrying the club forward.”
The Chiefs, who won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 but never looked like adding to their tally under Cooper, have not yet named a new coach.
A long-term prospect may be Waikato native Warren Gatland, who expressed interest in the job earlier this month when he announced he will coach the British and Irish Lions’ tour to South Africa in 2021.
Gatland, who will step down as Wales coach after this year’s Rugby World Cup, gave an emphatic denial when asked if he would join England after the Lions tour, but was more cagey about taking over at the Chiefs.
“At the moment I’m talking to a couple of people about what I’m going to do post the Lions but there’s nothing that I’ve looked at signing or nothing formal at the moment,” he told reporters in London.
Gatland was born in Hamilton and has a deep history with rugby in the region.
He racked up a record 140 appearances as hooker for Waikato before hanging up his boots in 1995, then coached the side in the domestic competition from 2004-2006.
He also worked as technical director at the Chiefs before departing for Wales, where he won three Grand Slams.
Chiefs Rugby Chief Executive Officer Michael Collins said he and Cooper had been in discussions for several weeks, which meant the Chiefs could begin their recruitment process discreetly without interrupting the 2019 campaign.
“We are grateful to Coops for his outstanding leadership and coaching at the Gallagher Chiefs. He is a proud man who set an incredibly high bar in terms of personal standards and behaviour, both on and off the field.
“We are really proud of the culture he has fostered inside our Club and team environment, and he can be proud of what he has achieved with the Chiefs.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew acknowledged Cooper’s commitment and contribution to the Chiefs and New Zealand Rugby.
“Coops is a remarkable individual with great presence and mana. We know Coops to have a special talent in communicating with young men and working to bring the best out of those in his charge, and to help grow outstanding individuals on and off the field.
“We appreciate that he will have some decisions to make and while he will have choices in front of him, we hope his special abilities won’t be lost to New Zealand rugby.”
“Next year is a post-World Cup year when there is a lot of player movement within Investec Super Rugby and clubs are beginning the next four-year cycle. Taking that into consideration, both Colin and the club have spoken at length over several weeks and agree that the time is right for a new coach to take the Chiefs into 2020 and beyond.”
“Being an ultimate professional and team man, Colin’s early decision was not made lightly by either him or the club, but it has allowed us some space to recruit and plan for a smooth and successful transition.”
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