Thursday 21 September 2017

'Wise old man' Keane backed by Chiefs to succeed when he arrives at the Sportsground

Chiefs assistant coach Kieran Keane speaks with his players during a training session in Hamilton. Photo: Getty Images
Chiefs assistant coach Kieran Keane speaks with his players during a training session in Hamilton. Photo: Getty Images
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Kieran Keane was not too enthusiastic about discussing his upcoming move to Ireland this week as he focuses on his current job with the Waikato Chiefs and this morning's clash with the Lions, but from the sounds of things the western province can get excited about their new man.

The Super Rugby side's attack coach is held in high regard in the Chiefs dressing-room, where he is credited with having a real focus around attention to detail, a critical eye - and a sharp tongue when it's needed.

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Keane is due to visit the Galway Sportsground this month before returning to Hamilton for the franchise's play-off push.

And the locals believe that their loss is Connacht's gain.

"He's going to be a great coach for Connacht and I can't wait to see how it goes for him," winger Toni Pulu said.

"He's a very smart guy, he was a teacher back in the day so he knows how to relate to players.

"He's a very detailed character, he just knows a lot. Last year was the first year he coached me. He calls himself the wise old man around here and he is.

"He's quite smart, knows a lot of stuff about rugby. He's been a great coach to me, I've learnt a lot from him.

"He's a coach that thinks outside the box and finds solutions for you. You tend to do things the hard way, but he finds little things that you should be doing that are simpler than the things you normally do."

All Black second-row Dominic Bird has worked with some of the best coaches in the game, but has been impressed with Keane's enthusiastic approach.

"He's very energetic, he's very funny," he said.

"He's bloody entertaining actually and he's got some very different ideas. He's a passionate man, so you can feel that with the way he coaches. He's got some great ideas.

"He backs you to play and take risks, and you can see that in the way that we play. He's all for it. You're a lot less worried about making mistakes and that's such a positive because you don't want to be dwelling on that. It's one of the good things about him."

Keane was an uncapped All Black, playing six non-Test matches for his country in 1979. He slowly made his mark on professional coaching, winning the National Provincial Championship (Mitre 10 Cup) in 2013 with the Tasman Makos, before joining Glasgow-bound Dave Rennie at the Chiefs.

Lock Michael Allardice has been impressed with Keane's tactical approach since he joined.

"We call him KK, he's a very analytical man who knows footy inside out," he said.

"You sit down with him to have a few minutes' conversation about something and you end up sitting there for half an hour talking footy. He just loves footy and he's a great man.

"He's got a very good tactical brain, which is very helpful. He's a good man, he loves a bit of sailing, so if someone over in Connacht has got a yacht out there I'm sure he'd love to do that."

For all that they get on with their coach, Pulu says the Westerners will need to be on their game because he's well able to dish it out if things go wrong.

"Ha, I've been guilty of that sometimes!" he said with a knowing smile. "But you respect him, because he knows his stuff."

Irish Independent

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