Rugby: Allan Bunting appointed new director of rugby for world champion Black Ferns

Former sevens mastermind Allan Bunting has been named the new director of rugby for the Black Ferns.

Bunting, 47, was co-coach of the Black Ferns Sevens side which won gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. He left the role after the Olympics to take up the position of head coach of Chiefs Manawa, who he led to the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki title.

The former sevens representative succeeds Wayne Smith, who helped guide the Black Ferns to World Cup glory on home soil last year, before retiring after the tournament. Bunting was a part of Smith's wider coaching group, working as the team's manager of culture and leadership.

Bunting said he was humbled by his appointment and is determined to keep the momentum behind women's rugby rolling.

"I feel very honoured and privileged to be in this position," said Bunting. "It is such an amazing time to be involved in women’s rugby. 

"The opportunities are endless to develop our talent, aspire our future and grow our leaders, which is really exciting."

Allan Bunting.
Allan Bunting. Photo credit: Supplied

The continued success of the Black Ferns is top of mind for Bunting, as they look to build on the team's popularity.

"As a team, it is important we keep building off the success from last year and create an environment that nurtures, supports and produces thriving people and in turn, a successful game," he noted.

"We are blessed with a massive amount of talent in this country and there is an opportunity to identify and support that talent so we can build depth."

The Black Ferns captured the hearts of the NZ public with their dramatic defence of the world championship, playing an unapologetically expansive and entertaining brand of rugby implemented by Smith.

Bunting says it's critical the team maintains that trademark as well as the strong culture established under his predecessor.

"Smithy has been instrumental to this game, but most importantly he gave women's rugby a special gift," added Bunting.

"Now it's our responsibility as a team, organisation and country to build on that and continue to foster our legacy."

Bunting is yet to decide on his assistant coaches. Wes Clarke and Whitney Hansen are the incumbent pair, working alongside Smith last year.

NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson says Bunting's record speaks for itself.

"Allan has showed his calibre as a coach with the Black Ferns Sevens, in Super Rugby Aupiki with Chiefs Manawa, and most recently as Black Ferns manager of culture and leadership," said Robinson.

"He has a proven track record on and off the field and the energy and inclusivity he brings to team environments is impressive."

Robinson has confirmed the Black Ferns will play seven tests this year, including the Pacific Four series and the Laurie O'Reilly Cup against Australia, with details of those fixtures to be announced shortly.