Lions v New Zealand: Third Test might be tougher than World Cup final - Wayne Smith
|New Zealand British and Irish Lions - third Test|
|Venue: Eden Park, Auckland Date: Saturday, 8 July Kick-off: 08:35 BST|
|Coverage: Follow the decisive third Test live on the BBC Sport website from 07:30 BST|
"I doubt any one has put more time, energy, intellectual equity and sweat into the All Blacks than Wayne Smith. He has seriously enhanced the legacy of the jersey he loves so dearly." (New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew).
Player, coach, consultant, mentor - Wayne Smith has done it all in his 20-year, 200-Test association with the All Blacks.
Now in his third stint as a coach, and having won two World Cups, one of Smith's last acts with the national side is plotting the downfall of the British and Irish Lions on Saturday.
Nicknamed 'The Professor', Smith is considered one of the greatest tactical thinkers of the modern game, and says Test matches like this one at Eden Park will be won and lost in the preparation.
"You are on Saturday what you have done during the week," the All Blacks assistant coach says.
"You have to know your enemy as well as yourself, and we do a lot of work on that.
"This Lions team is a hugely talented team and they have come to play.
"This game is a massive game [the three-Test series is tied at 1-1] and there is going to be massive pressure. It's possibly a game that is tougher than the World Cup final."
Capped 17 times in Test matches as a player, Smith traces his coaching philosophy back to his first forays with Treviso in Italy in the 1980s and '90s.
"I learnt my coaching in Italy, and so I learnt a different methodology to other New Zealand coaches," Smith added.
"I think that's where the 'Mad Professor' came from - I asked questions rather than instructed."
Now 60, Smith will stand down following this season's Rugby Championship, the southern hemisphere competition against Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
"The time always comes when you know it is right to move on, for you and for the team. It's my time now," he said.
"It's been a privilege - the whole thing has been a privilege."
And as for his future plans?
"We'll have a bit of time in the camper van, go back to Italy for a month or two every year and hopefully a travel around a wee bit.
"It'll just be a good chance to reconnect with people and family, and change the lifestyle.
"I'll do a wee bit of rugby coaching - I'll help people if I'm passionate about it."
Matt Dawson's 'brutal dissection'
After moving back home from Italy, Smith forged his reputation with the Crusaders in Canterbury.
The All Blacks job came in 2000, and went in 2001, when Smith was sacked and replaced by John Mitchell.
As is the trend with modern Kiwi coaches, he went abroad to develop, taking over at Northampton, where he made a lasting impression, not least on former England and Lions scrum-half Matt Dawson.
"When he arrived he gave me a brutal dissection of how I was viewed at Northampton by players, management and fans," said Dawson.
"It wasn't favourable but it made me think about how I conduct myself. Most people pat you on the back. [With Wayne] either you buy in or you're jettisoned.
"He also was hugely influential to Sir Clive Woodward's management team, letting them in to Northampton and giving away how he was managing and motivating the England players at Saints.
"Former England kicking coach Dave Alred's psychology methods were definitely enhanced by Smith's mindset mapping technique."
Dawson's Northampton and England half-back partner Paul Grayson said Smith's honesty, allied to his rugby expertise, made him a superb coach.
"He always advocated honesty and unlike many before and since he was always true to his beliefs and values, and that meant the harsh truths were laid bare," added Grayson.
"It also meant that you knew when he said he would help you get the best out of yourself that you believed him, and as long as you were prepared to work hard it would happen.
"A pat on the back from Smithy was a genuine reward. With his unparalleled knowledge of the game, coupled with skilful and genuine man-management, he inspired achievement."
Those qualities meant the All Blacks again came calling in 2004, when Graham Henry approached Smith about joining his backroom team.
After long deliberation, Smith accepted, conscious of having unfinished business at home.
"When Graham rang me to ask if I would come back if he got the All Black job, my wife Trish ran up the stairs and said 'no, no, no!'
"My family were passionate about Northampton but also a wee bit upset about how we left New Zealand, and didn't want me to go back into the All Black environment at that point. But I knew deep down inside I had to, for myself.
"I had developed as a coach and I wanted to come back to New Zealand to show I had the resilience and toughness to go through the good and the bad of the All Blacks.
"I was keen to get back into that environment to show I could do it and to experience what I consider the greatest team in the world."
A last hurrah
Thirteen years on, and Smith has certainly experienced the range of emotions with his beloved All Blacks.
Following World Cup heartbreak in 2007 - and a devastating quarter-final exit at the hands of France in Cardiff - Smith, Henry et al clung to their jobs before leading the All Blacks to glory four years later.
After a highly successful stint with the Chiefs in Waikato, Smith was again a man in demand, with current head coach Steve Hansen making the call in 2015, as Henry did a decade earlier.
"Steve is an old mate of mine. I played with Steve, and I was coach of Canterbury B in the late 1980s and he was my captain," Smith remembers.
"We go back a hell of a long way - he's a great mate, as is Graham Henry."
"We all work hard. All the staff here work hard. I think that's one of the things about the All Blacks environment - the jersey demands you put everything into it, and the players and staff are the same."
After winning back-to-back Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs in between successive World Cups, the Lions series is Smith's last hurrah.
He says he has not been surprised by the tourists' expansive style so far in this series, and is revelling in the game of chess being played between the coaching teams.
Albeit with 14 men, New Zealand failed to score a try in the second Test, which is something Smith is determined to address.
"We clearly want to play rugby, and we are born to play rugby in a certain style," he said.
"But they are smart coaches. We know the [Lions] coaches well, and they are top-quality coaches, so they are always going to be too clever to come out here and try and play a stodgy game."
And following the Lions' dramatic series-levelling victory in Wellington, Smith is embracing the magnitude of Saturday's occasion.
"We revel in the big games. Every All Black game is its own entity. Every game in the jersey is a big game - you love the pressure.
"It's going to be pretty red hot on Saturday night."
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