Rugby: Taranaki appoint Chiefs assistant Neil Barnes as new head coach for Mitre 10 Cup campaign

Chiefs assistant coach Neil Barnes will take the reins at Taranaki for the next two Mitre 10 Cup campaigns.

The former lock forward represented the Bulls in the 1990s and brings a wealth of experience to the head coaching role.

He was an assistant coach for the province from 2003-07 and in 2009, and won seven consecutive club titles with New Plymouth Old Boys, between 1993-98 and then again in 2002.

Barnes is delighted to return to coach his home province.

"I am a Taranaki person at heart, born and bred, love my province and the people in it deep down," Barnes says.

"It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me that I am genuinely excited about returning home and taking on the head coach role.

"I was fortunate enough to be involved with Taranaki Bulls team last season. We had our ups and downs, but we’ve got a good group of young men there, who I believe will get better.".

Taranaki Rugby chief executive Laurence Corlett says the province is lucky to recruit such an esteemed coach.

"We are incredibly fortunate to have secured Neil Barnes, such a high-quality coach, to lead Taranaki Bulls over the next two years.

"Neil will add a lot of experience and old school work ethic to the head coach role, and he will lead Taranaki rugby forward, on and off the field.

"I am extremely excited about the future of rugby here in Taranaki."

Taranaki Rugby chairman Andrew Thompson believes the coaching experiences Neil has enjoyed over the last 10 years are impressive.

"Neil is hugely passionate about Taranaki rugby and it was a big draw to applying for the role. To have someone with his international and Super Rugby experience at the helm of our Taranaki Bulls team is exciting for all involved."

Barnes replaces Willie Rickards, who finished his three-year contract at the end of 2020.