- Craig Newby played 74 times for Leicester and three times for New Zealand
- He is now director of rugby at St John’s, Leatherhead
- Coaches Call focuses on different coach from across the country each week
There is one game that particularly stands out in Craig Newby’s rugby career. It is not his first cap for New Zealand or the 2009 Heineken Cup final with Leicester – it’s the 1997 New Zealand Schools Cup final.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Newby, who was playing for Rotorua Boys' High School against Otago Boys.
“I was the captain and Richie McCaw was in their side. It was a five all draw with no extra time and both Richie and I scored. Both our tries were from rolling mauls but there was no video footage so let’s say it was from 50 metres out.”
20 years later and Newby was back in a schools cup final, this time at Twickenham Stadium where he led Warwick School to the 2017 U18 Cup final when they beat Bishop’s Wordsworth school.
Since then, Newby has taken on the role of Director of Rugby at St John’s Leatherhead who begin their U18 Champions Trophy campaign against The King’s School, Canterbury next week.
"Schoolboy rugby is about passion"
“I’ve always loved schoolboy rugby, it’s played with passion and freedom," says Newby. "There were boys in that Rotorua team who got tattoos to remember that match which shows how much it meant."
After leaving the Highlanders in 2008, Newby played for four years in Leicester, where he won two Premiership titles.
He was capped three times for New Zealand and it could have been many more had his career not coincided with a certain schoolboy rival.
“I guess it’s unfortunate mine and Richie’s careers crossed paths because I might have played a lot more for the All Blacks. But everyone says that in New Zealand, there’s always someone else.“
"Everyone loves a cup run"
After two years spent coaching in National One and Two South with Cambridge, Newby got more experience in Japan before returning to help lead Warwick School to glory at Twickenham.
In his time at the school, Warwick became one of the most dominant sides in schoolboy rugby but for Newby the focus now turns to achievening success at St John's.
Of course, Newby is no stranger to cup runs and his experiences might come in handy for a St John’s team looking to go all the way.
In the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final, Newby stepped up to take a drop goal during his side’s dramatic shootout after extra time against Cardiff Blues. The important thing is making sure the values are strong in the team."
Leicester lost 19-16 in the final to Leinster but Newby says he has learned a great deal from those experiences as well as the coaches he played under during his career.
“Everyone loves a cup run, it pulls everyone together. Being part of those occasions helps you grow as a player and a person.
"You also learn from those around you. Wayne Shelford, the former New Zealaand captain, coached me and we always knew the game plan under him. He was a very direct coach, there were no grey areas.
“Whereas with Greg Cooper at the Highlanders and Matt O’Connor at Leicester, I learned a lot about creativity and player empowerment.
“I’ve taken elements from all those guys in my approach. For me, the important thing is making sure the values are strong in the team and so we talk a lot about pride here at St John’s, pride in our shirt and pride in our teammates and that’s what will drive us forward this season.”
Fast forward 20 years and it is clear Newby remains as passionate about schoolboy rugby now as he did two decades ago as a Rotorua High School captain. Follow the 2017/18 Schools Cup here.