Brian Lochore retired from rugby yesterday. He had retired as a coach previously, but this time it’s for good. Jim Kayes reports.

Lochore lets go of rugby

Family and farms; Brian Lochore is happy to shift focus to his family and the rural life

BRIAN LOCHORE has put himself out to pasture. After a lifetime in rugby that began in the back blocks of Masterton and kicked into life when, as an 18-year-old, he debuted for Wairarapa in 1959, Lochore has had enough.  "I've retired," he said with his customary efficient use of words.  At 67 Lochore thinks it is time to spend more time with his wife, Pam, their family — three children and eight grandchildren — and on the family farms.  

He bows out not in the way he would have hoped for, with a World Cup win that would have provided a wonderful bookend to the 1987 win he masterminded, but he leaves content.  He is adamant the controversial rotation and conditioning programmes were necessary and blames the All Blacks' quarterfinal loss to France on their easy pool, including Scotland.  "We really needed a hard game and had looked at Scotland to give us that, but they put out their B team and there is a big difference between Scotland A and Scotland B.  “That game was going to be our dress rehearsal for the quarterfinal but when they played Scotland B it didn't help us.  "If we had had one hard game where we dented our pride a little bit that would have helped us," Lochore said.  

He insists the All Blacks needed the conditioning window in the first half of the Super 14 or they would have been exhausted at the World, Cup.  And he said that without the rotation there wouldn't have been the depth required to cope with injuries during the tournament.  Lochore pointed to first five-eighth, where Nick Evans had the confidence to replace Daniel Carter during the loss to France as proof. "The rotation has been fantastic in doing what we wanted in having two players in every position. What we couldn't have planned for was losing two first five-eighths."  Lochore is pleased Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have been reappointed. He also backs the New Zealand Rugby Union's selection process.  Lochore thinks the trio of coaches, can handle picking the All lacks without a fourth selector — the role he has filled for the past four years -- and supports Robbie Deans in his push to become the Australia coach.

The quarterfinal World Cup loss France in Cardiff was one of his darkest days in rugby, but he said was proud of the All Blacks' record during the past four years. He was also pleased that the players had become more independent on and off the field.  "We inherited a team that wasn't keen on making decisions because they were used to being told what to do every moment of the day."  The players were now more self disciplined and self-motivated, Lochore said.

There is little Lochore hasn't done in rugby as a player and coach, in helping to stave off the rebel competition that threatened the game in 1995, and for the past four years as a selector.  It is not the first time he has called it quits.  He retired from coaching after guiding the All Blacks to winning the inaugural World Cup in 1987 but has never been far from the game.  Lochore helped pick the World XV that played the All Blacks in 1992, was lured back as campaign manager for Laurie Mains in 1995 and enticed again by Henry when he took over as coach in 2004.  Lochore insists this is it.  Rugby takes up a lot of your time and there are things I want to do while I'm still able to do them."