Cardiff Blues are looking to kick on under the guidance of Mark Hammett
Cardiff Blues have appointed former All Blacks hooker Mark Hammett as their director of rugby from next season.
The 41-year-old will head to Wales at the end of the current Super 15 season in the southern hemisphere, where he is coaching the Hurricanes in Wellington. He will replace Phil Davies, who left his post in March.
The Christchurch-born former front rower has carved out a reputation as one of the most exciting coaches in the Super 15 following spells at the Crusaders and Hurricanes.
Hammett, who won 29 caps for New Zealand between 1999 and 2003, made his name during his playing career with the Crusaders, where he won four Super Rugby titles. He retired in 2003 and joined the coaching staff at the same franchise, while also working with Canterbury in the Air New Zealand Cup.
Hammett took over as head boach at the Wellington-based Hurricanes in 2011 and is currently leading the team as they push for the end of season play-offs. He will front an exciting new-look coaching team at Cardiff Arms Park with current caretaker coaches Dale McIntosh and Paul John.
"We conducted an extensive worldwide search, with the help of Wales coach Warren Gatland and Gareth Edwards, and are absolutely delighted that Mark Hammett will be taking the role of director of rugby," said Richard Holland, chief executive at Cardiff Blues.
"Chief (Dale McIntosh) and Johnsy (Paul John) have done a terrific job over the last few months and I know they are looking forward to working with Mark. They will form a strong partnership and we are excited to see that take the region forward.
"I have met Mark and he was the outstanding coach and person for the role. We believe his long-term vision for the Blues with take us to the next level and achieve our ambitions.
"We've made strong signings with New Zealand international Jarrad Hoeata, Italian back row Manoa Vosawai, Craig Mitchell, Josh Turnbull, Tavis Knoyle, George Watkins and Ieuan Jones joining us. We're working hard on more signings and are positive about the way they will work with our talented existing squad under the guidance of Mark Hammett.
"It has always been our commitment as a region to be sustainable off the field and a competitive and successful on it. We've made the business sustainable since the return to the Arms Park and now, under the leadership of Mark Hammett, we believe the Blues can start to once again look forward to a bright future."
WRU International Skills Coach Jason Strange is a busy man, combining the new role with that of Wales Under 20 attack coach, Ebbw Vale head coach and continuing to teach at Ebbw Fawr Learning Community.
Warren Gatland and Sam Warburton look ahead to this week's crunch RBS 6 Nations tie against France, where the Wales skipper in particular is keen to make his mark, as Paris has proved a bleak place for him in the past.
Following their historic win over England, Wales Under 20 suffered a narrow, 36-34 loss to their Scottish counterparts last weekend, despite outscoring them by five tries to three. Watch the match highlights and reaction.
WRU TV go behind the scenes with the Wales squad as they put the final touches in place ahead of the clash against Scotland at Murrayfield. Follow the squad on their captain's run, the kickers visit to Murrayfield and Neil Jenkins' press conference