When their former head coach Brad Mooar left to take up his dream role with the All Blacks last year just a few months into a three-year deal, many saw it as a significant blow to the Scarlets.
But as part of a compensation package for Mooar’s departure, the Welsh side negotiated an elite performance partnership with the world’s best Test team.
The relationship with New Zealand is headed up by Scarlets’ general manager Jon Daniels.
“It’s a high-performance partnership that looks at ways where we can bounce ideas off each other, work in partnership together, and come up with some provoking thoughts and innovations that might take things forward,” said Daniels.
“It’s a critical friend type approach looking at what we do and maybe suggesting new ideas. I’d like to also think they might take something from us as well.”
It’s a high-performance partnership that looks at ways where we can bounce ideas off each other, work in partnership together, and come up with some provoking thoughts and innovations that might take things forward
The Scarlets have always had a strong connection to New Zealand having famously beaten the touring All Blacks at Stradey Park in 1972.
Kiwis such as Frano Botica, Regan King, and Kees Meeuws and many more have also played in Llanelli.
There remains a strong Kiwi presence there today through head coach Glenn Delaney, scrum coach Ben Franks and board member Sean Fitzpatrick.
The west Walians are one of only two European clubs who have a formal relationship with the NZRU with Harlequins being the other.
Harlequins recently sent their England centre Joe Marchant on loan to Auckland Blues. The Scarlets are hoping to send some of their younger talent to the Mitre 10 Cup.
“That’s absolutely something that is possible,” said Daniels.
“Who it might be suitable for is a separate piece of work because it has to fit into that player’s development plan.
“Getting players opportunities out in New Zealand, be it Mitre 10 or even club rugby, is something which will add greatly to the development of our best young talent.
“It would be a great rugby experience for them, but also in terms of life experience they’ll come back and probably be a more rounded and mature individual.
“Being a professional athlete, it can be difficult to get real life experiences so the ability in a managed and controlled way to get players out there is a definite plus and something we have discussed with New Zealand.
“The same opportunities exist for us to get staff down there and for the New Zealand Rugby Union to have staff come up and work with us.
“Those are the concepts being fleshed out at the moment.”
Getting players opportunities out in New Zealand, be it Mitre 10 or even club rugby, is something which will add greatly to the development of our best young talent
Daniels continued: “What we are looking to do is take it another step forward and have a more structured format without losing the ability for people to pick up the phone and have a chat.
“Subject to Covid-19 travel restrictions the ability to get our staff across to New Zealand to spend time with people is being openly discussed.
“If it wasn’t for Covid, we would have people heading down to New Zealand this off season and that’s a key part of the relationship.
“Likewise, if New Zealand have coaches they want to send over here, then we’d reciprocate as well.
“Our business is about performance and making people better whether they are on the field or off it.
“We haven’t done as much as we would have liked due to Covid but I’d like to thank NZRU General Manager of Professional Rugby and Performance Chris Lendrum for his professionalism and expertise in this partnership.”