Clark Laidlaw bucks trend on New Zealand rugby adventure

golf18 April 2024 06:30| © AFP
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Clark Laidlaw © Getty Images

Clark Laidlaw comes from a proud Scottish rugby family but it is in New Zealand that he has made his mark as a forward-thinking coach with a focus on "mind, body and soul".

Following success with the All Blacks Sevens, Laidlaw took over at the Hurricanes and they have won all seven of their games so far this season to top the Super Rugby ladder.

Laidlaw, who played more than 90 times for Scotland's sevens team, told AFP the 'Canes success on the pitch had come through hard graft off it.

"Obviously we're delighted with the start. Picking up the wins is nice, but it's taken a lot of work," said the 46-year-old head coach.

"It's been pretty intense."

Success runs in the family. Laidlaw's father, Roy, won a Grand Slam with Scotland in 1984, the year after touring New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions.

His cousin, Greig, also a Lions tourist to New Zealand in 2017, played more than 70 tests in the famous blue Scottish shirt, many as captain.


While New Zealand traditionally exports rugby coaches overseas, Laidlaw has bucked the trend.

He moved to New Zealand in 2008 and did a coaching apprenticeship in regional rugby, before leading the All Blacks Sevens to gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Olympic silver three years ago in Tokyo.

Under his steady hand, the Hurricanes are the only Super Rugby team still unbeaten this season.

They backed up a rare away victory at defending champions the Crusaders by scoring five tries through the notoriously robust defence of the Chiefs in a 36-23 home win on Saturday.

"There's some really good leadership developing, tactically as well as off the field," Laidlaw said, pointing to All Blacks TJ Perenara and Jordie Barrett, plus captain Brad Shields.

"They found some of the solutions when the Chiefs put us under pressure."

Mental skills sessions have been a key part of the training schedule under Laidlaw.

"I have been reading crazy articles that we are fitter than other teams. I'm not sure that is the case," he said.

"I think we're holistically fit – what I mean by that is mind, body and soul. We have put a lot of work into those areas.

"When you get all three humming, you can look fast on the field and clear on your game plan."


Laidlaw makes no secret of his desire to end the Hurricanes' wait for silverware, dating back to 2016.

"Are we good enough? Time will tell, but we have made a good start. It's about keeping our feet on the ground and preparing well."

The Hurricanes face a stern test in their next two games.

Laidlaw has been meticulous ahead of Friday's clash with the Fijian Drua, who have won their three home games so far in sweltering conditions.

An evening kick-off in Suva will help, but Laidlaw has prepared for the humidity by holding indoor training sessions with the heating turned up.

After Fiji they are away to a resurgent Brumbies, who have won six of their seven games.

In their bid to win the Super Rugby title, Laidlaw has encouraged his side to reflect on the team's history as inspiration.

An Instagram post of the squad last weekend singing the team song has been viewed more than half a million times.

Written over a decade ago, the lyrics refer to their former All Blacks stars such as Christian Cullen and Jerry Collins, role models for the current squad.

"They are a big part of why younger players want to play for the Hurricanes," Laidlaw said.

"The team song is a great example of the men connecting with their identity. It was cool to share it with the supporters."