The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Mauger in the driv­ing seat now he’s got Tigers dis­missal out of his sys­tem

- From Nik Si­mon IN CHRISTCHUR­CH

ONCE Aaron Mauger had cleared his desk in Le­ices­ter, he flew to Amer­ica, picked out a hire car and cruised down the Pa­cific Coast High­way.

It was the per­fect place to re­flect on his re­cent sack­ing — and pro­vide a smooth con­nec­tion to New Zealand, where he will soon take up a new job with the High­landers, who play the Lions on Tues­day.

‘There was a lot to think about,’ said Mauger, speak­ing ex­clu­sively to The

Mail on Sun­day in his first in­ter­view since leav­ing the Tigers. ‘A lot of fac­tors came into play dur­ing my time there. There are pretty fine mar­gins at the top. We had a lot of in­jured play­ers — Manu Tuilagi, Matt Toomua — and there are things we could have man­aged bet­ter.

‘It wasn’t all doom and gloom. We just didn’t nail things when we needed to.’

Mauger ended his ten­ure with an An­glo-Welsh Cup. The cel­e­bra­tory hang­overs had barely kicked in by the time he was in­formed on Mon­day morn­ing that his con­tract would be ter­mi­nated.

He be­came the third coach­ing ca­su­alty of the sea­son, in­clud­ing Tigers stal­wart Richard Cock­er­ill, but is left with no hard feel­ings.

How did he re­flect on his re­la­tion­ship with Cock­er­ill? ‘We had a lot of dif­fer­ences but we had a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties,’ said Mauger.

‘We weren’t al­ways on the same page but we weren’t that far off. A lot was made about our re­la­tion­ship but he’s a good guy and a good coach. We’ve spo­ken over the last cou­ple of months about our learn­ings.

‘We al­ways got along re­ally well off the field. Some of those dif­fer­ences around the rugby are ac­tu­ally quite good things be­cause it keeps your mind open.

‘You never know what might hap­pen. Maybe we’ll be back. There are a lot of good peo­ple there and the door’s al­ways open.’

Cock­er­ill and Mauger are cut from dif­fer­ent cloth. One is a nig­gly, Coven­try­born scrum-lov­ing hooker and the other is an All Blacks mid­fielder, brought up on chanc­ing his arm in at­tack.

Their con­trast in styles is re­flected by the play­ing styles of the Lions and the All Blacks — with Mauger due to face his home coun­try on Fri­day in a tem­po­rary coach­ing role with Samoa.

‘There’s def­i­nitely a bit more of an em­pha­sis on the set-piece in the north­ern hemi­sphere,’ con­tin­ued the 36-year-old.

‘The weather dic­tates that you need a few more set-piece plays.

‘It’s more of a ter­ri­tory and pres­sure game, while down here teams are pre­pared to throw the ball around a bit more and at­tack from deeper.

‘It has con­se­quences if you don’t get it right but it also opens up mas­sive op­por­tu­ni­ties. You’ve got to have con­fi­dence in your skills and back your­self to get out of a hole.

‘It’s tough to find to many chinks in the All Blacks ar­mour, so the Lions will have to con­trol the tempo.

‘How will they do that? They’ll try to get a lit­tle bit of dom­i­nance at the set-piece.

‘I don’t think they will be high-scor­ing games. They’ll have to take their op­por­tu­ni­ties and take the All Blacks on. They’ve got the play­ers to do that.’

 ??  ?? NEW CHAL­LENGE: Aaron Mauger faces the Lions
NEW CHAL­LENGE: Aaron Mauger faces the Lions

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