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Kidwell front-runner as next Kiwis coach

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 13/09/2016

Assistant coach David Kidwell of New Zealand gives instructions to the team prior to the Four Nations match between the New Zealand Kiwis and Samoa at Toll Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Whangarei, New Zealand. © Hannah Peters/Getty Images Assistant coach David Kidwell of New Zealand gives instructions to the team prior to the Four Nations match between the New Zealand Kiwis and Samoa at Toll Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Whangarei, New Zealand. All the signs point to Kiwis assistant David Kidwell being promoted to the head coach post left vacant by the departing Stephen Kearney.

The New Zealand Rugby League is on a rapid drive to replace Kearney, whose nine-year reign ended when he was unveiled as the new Warriors head coach on a three-season deal starting in 2017.

NZRL chief executive Alex Hayton says Kidwell has already been interviewed for the Kiwis job and made it clear he has a strong chance of promotion.

"The obvious candidate is David Kidwell because he has been the assistant for three years," Hayton said.

"He's in the system, he knows the culture and we have had a discussion with David."

Hayton says a couple of other candidates have emerged and their merits will be assessed before the appointment is made, probably before the end of the week.

The haste is to have somebody to work immediately with the squad ahead of their next Test, against Australia in Perth on October 15. The Four Nations tournament in England begins shortly afterwards.

The next coach will be appointed through to World Cup late next year.

Kidwell, 39, has decent credentials, having worked as an assistant coach at NRL level with the Melbourne Storm and the Wests Tigers.

Like Kearney, Kidwell is a former long-serving Kiwis forward and represented multiple NRL clubs as a player across more than a decade, as well as having a short stint in England.

Hayton wouldn't say if offshore candidates had emerged as candidates.

"There aren't many Kiwis in high-profile positions in rugby league coaching ranks so we have to be open to someone else.

"(But) Being a Kiwi is a plus in understanding the culture that's been built."

Hayton says Kearney will continue to aid the staggeredd selection process of the Kiwis squad, with 23 players already named in a train-on squad.

Kearney is also prepared to help the new coach oversee the Kiwis buildup to the Perth Test, if it is needed.

However, he won't be involved in the Four Nations as he wants to be on hand from the start of the Warriors' pre-season training programme in November.

Kearney enjoyed a successful reign as national coach, winning the 2008 World Cup and clinching two Four Nations titles.

Last year's win over Australia was New Zealand's third in a row in trans-Tasman Tests.

Hayton says he wasn't surprised when Kearney informed him on Saturday that he was in deep discussions with the Warriors.

"Is the timing perfect? No, but these opportunities don't come up that often.

"Stephen has expressed a desire to be an NRL head coach again and I wish him well."

Warriors CEO Jim Doyle told reporters in Auckland he had approached NZRL to confirm the agreement with Kearney on Saturday.

He was unconcerned by suggestions Kearney had left NZRL in the lurch by abandoning his Kiwis post on the eve of the Four Nations.

"He knows from experience you can't just be the head coach of a club and the head coach of the Kiwis," Doyle said.

"He's made a decision he thinks is the right one for him for the future."

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