Super Rugby Pacific: Blues coach Leon MacDonald admits interest in All Blacks assistant role

Blues coach Leon MacDonald has ducked and weaved like a prime Floyd Mayweather Jr, as he fielded a barrage of questions about his ambitions to join Scott Robertson's staff as an All Blacks assistant coach.

As the dust settles from Robertson's confirmation the next national coach, succeeding Ian Foster after the World Cup, attention has quickly turned to who'll accompany him in the coaching booth.

MacDonald's success in transforming the Blues to Super Rugby contenders and his close ties with Robertson - whom he played alongside at both the Crusaders and All Blacks, and coached under at the former - have seen his name listed at the top of the contenders.

Speaking at Blue's training, MacDonald has refused to confirm anything either way, but admitted the pair had been in regular contact throughout the appointment process and insisted Robertson would make his announcement when he was ready to do so. 

"It's such a big topic," said MacDonald. "Firstly, Razor getting the job… I'm stoked for him, he'll do a great job.

"He's been biding his time around the announcement of his assistants and I think that's a big part of his gig as well. He's going to assemble the team, and he should have the ability as and when he wants.

"As soon as we're able to talk a bit more about it, I'd love to chat."

Robertson and MacDonald after a Blues v Crusaders game last season.
Robertson and MacDonald after a Blues v Crusaders game last season. Photo credit: Getty Images

Crusaders assistant Scott Hansen has been more direct about his prospects, confirming he'd hitched his wagon to Robertson. By contrast, Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland played down his potential involvement, insisting he hadn't heard from Robertson "in months".

MacDonald is uncertain whether he'd be able to continue in his current role with the Blues, if he joined the All Blacks fold. 

Strictly hypothetically speaking, of course.

"I think everyone aspires to [the All Blacks level]," he said.  "If you're in the rugby game, that's obviously the pinnacle in New Zealand and I'm definitely no different.

"I'm really enjoying my role here with the Blues and learning a lot everyday, and am motivated and inspired everyday to come and work here, but the black jersey is the black jersey. If you've grown up in New Zealand watching rugby as a kid, as most of us have, it's the pinnacle and pretty special."

MacDonald was also quizzed whether his ties to the Scotland head coaching gig had impacted his decision.

"Not really," he insisted. "You're coaxing me into saying too much already. 

"I just think, in a week or two, once the dust settles, it will be a lot easier to have a proper conversation, instead of trying to avoid saying something that's going to become a headline."

Stand-in Blues captain Harry Plummer offered a ringing endorsement of his coach's credentials.

"He knows the game really well and he's not afraid to experiment with it," said Plummer. "I feel like he's brought that southern mindset with the Auckland flair and that’s really helped us a lot. 

"He's bought into us wanting to express ourselves and I hope you've seen that over the last 24 months in how we've been trying to play. The boys have drawn to Leon massively and we'd like to think he’s done the same to us. 

"Whatever happens going forward, it's been a really cool relationship."