11 Oct 2022
Kiwi coach Maguire right at home back in England
The New Zealand coach remains a hero in the north-west for his two successful seasons with Wigan
By James Toney
Michael Maguire is half a world from home but seemingly right at home too.
More than a decade on, the New Zealand coach remains a hero in England for his two successful seasons with Wigan, ending a 12-year title drought with a Grand Final and Challenge Cup win.
Knowledge is power and Maguire has been drilling his Kiwi team on what to expect from English conditions – ‘bring a warm coat’ - and English crowds – ‘they will be loud’.
And he also hopes to have the inside track on two of his main coaching rivals, having spent time as an assistant to Kangaroos boss Mal Meninga at Canberra, while England's Shaun Wane was his number two at Warriors.
"They're good friends and good people but when you compete it's totally different," he said.
"I really enjoyed my time working with both of them, learned a lot of different things from each. Shaun really helped me understand the culture of the sport in England. I'm not surprised to see the success he has had. I know his passion and England will be very hard to beat at home because of it.
"I loved my time here and getting the chance to go back and see the fans at Wigan again, chat about old times, that's been special.”
New Zealand are ranked number one in the world coming into the Rugby League World Cup, where they face group games against Lebanon, Jamaica and Ireland, with a potential showpiece semi-final against defending champions Australia in Leeds looming if results go as planned.
Expectations are high to regain the title they won in 2008, fuelled further by their return to the international scene in June, when the Kiwis swatted aside an NRL stacked Tonga team 26-6 in Auckland.
Supporters have left the team under no illusions of their requirements of this long-distance adventure but Maguire treads that careful line between the bullish optimism that fires the fans and a more diplomatic tone.
New Zealand have been speaking about being the best team in the world, will they prove it on the pitch at RLWC2021?#RLWC2021 | @NZRL_Kiwis pic.twitter.com/M8OtrAyvK3
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) October 12, 2022
"This tournament is just massive for the sport in New Zealand, we've had the Warriors playing in Australia for two years and we've been denied our international team because of the pandemic," he added.
"When I found out this tournament was being postponed for a year it really hurt, the whole group was just shattered by it. It was the right decision but it's probably made us even more hungry for it.
"That game against Tonga told me what it meant, the streets were packed, the noise was incredible, the atmosphere was the closest I've come to experiencing what you get over here in England.
"We've got the best players in the world on this Kiwi team and we want to achieve that success together. The more time we spend together the more our expectations increase, the limit of what we can achieve is sky high really. There is a real focus in this group, you can see what they want and that's great as a coach.
"We know that the competition is intense - Samoa, Tonga, Australia and England, they'll have something to say about it. There will also be a team that surprises us. They will be a bolt from somewhere that no-one is even thinking of at the moment, so you have to make sure you turn up and be ready.
"We've got confidence and belief but we're more than aware of the challenge that awaits us too."
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets