Currie chief Ben Cairns cannot wait to get to New Zealand this weekend and continue his development alongside some highly experienced coaches within the Canterbury High Performance Unit.
Cairns, who guided Currie to a top-four BT Premiership finish in his first season as head coach, was recently chosen, along with new Edinburgh Rugby backs coach Duncan Hodge, to be this year’s recipient of The John Macphail Coaching Scholarship.
Hodge is already out in New Zealand, with Cairns set to fly out on Friday to join him.
Twenty-nine-year-old Cairns, who played in more than 100 matches for Edinburgh and earned eight caps for Scotland before injury brought a premature end to his career, is one of a group of highly-rated young coaches in Scottish rugby.
“I have really loved coaching at Currie over the last couple of years and being given the responsibility of being head coach during the season just passed has helped my development,” Cairns said.
“Now to get a chance to go and see how some of the best coaches around go about their work in New Zealand will be really great and I am keen to take as much from the experience as I can.
“I would like to say a big thank you to the Macphail family for choosing me.”
When Cairns arrives in Christchurch, he and Hodge will have around a week together before the latter comes home. Cairns will then have a further fortnight there on his own and he is looking forward to catching up with old faces such as Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder, who was a player and coach at Edinburgh from 2001 to 2005 and had a major impact on Cairns when he was coming on to the scene at Murrayfield.
“When I was a young player coming through the ranks Todd had a really big influence on me,” said Cairns. “He was that kind of guy that demanded respect and when he spoke you certainly listened.
“He taught me a lot about my game and also about how to conduct yourself off the pitch and I like to think I have taken some tips from him into my own coaching career.
“Dave Hewett, who also had a spell at Edinburgh [from 2005 to 2007 as a prop], works there too, so it will good to catch up with them both and also learn from them.
“The time I have out there will be split so that I get an insight into how the top team operates and also see how the guys there work with the up-and-coming players and junior sides to make sure that they reach their potential.
“As well as shadowing coaches, I will also be given the opportunity to coach myself.”
Cairns admits that taking on the head coach’s job at Currie during 2014/15 opened his eyes to a few things because his work load – and expectations – increased. However, he loves being out on the training pitch and, along with assistant coach Fergus Pringle, took great delight in watching the team progress throughout the campaign.
“It is so pleasing as a coach when things you work on during the week or over a long period of time come good on a Saturday,” Cairns said. “The guys at Currie are very good at taking things on board and some of the most pleasing points of the season came when we turned things around against opponents. For example we lost to Gala 60-22 in September before beating them 21-10 in November.
“I also want to try and help players reach their full potential, whether that be earning a first XV spot, playing for Scotland age-grade teams or going on and getting a professional contract.
“When you are a player you are always learning and certainly that is the case too when you are a coach. I look forward to putting into practice the things I learn in New Zealand next season at Malleny Park.”