Guinness PRO12: Cardiff Blues confirm Mark Hammett’s exit

Former All Black leaves role as director of rugby with immediate effect to return to New Zealand after six months in charge

The Sport Review staff
By The Sport Review staff

Cardiff Blues have confirmed that director of rugby Mark Hammett is to leave his position with the Welsh region with immediate effect.

While the region begin a search to replace the former All Blacks hooker and Hurricanes head coach, his assistants Dale McIntosh and Paul John will again lead the Blues for the remainder of the season, as they did following the departure of Phil Davies 12 months ago.

I must put my family first and therefore it is with regret that I am leaving the role.

Mark Hammett

News of the 42-year-old’s impending departure was reported by WalesOnline last Friday, hours before the Blues put in their worst performance of the season as they went down 40-24 to Benetton Treviso at the Stadio Monigo.

That result leaves the Blues languishing in 10th place, lowest of the four Welsh regions and ahead of only the two struggling Italian clubs.

And the coach, affectionately known as ‘Hammer’ in his native New Zealand, is returning home with his family, citing personal reasons.

“I have enjoyed my time with Cardiff Blues and it was always my intention to bring success to the region over the full length of my contract,” Hammett said.

“However, I must put my family first and therefore it is with regret that I am leaving the role.

“I’d like thank Peter Thomas and the board of directors for their support in allowing me to return home as soon as possible.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the amazing fans at Cardiff Blues for their backing throughout my time here and I hope they understand the difficult decision I have now made.

“I wish the region every success and look forward to seeing the team develop in the coming years.”

Hammett took charge of the side last summer following a global search for a new director of rugby, with Wales head coach Warren Gatland involved in the rigorous process.

Mark has made a number of positive changes that will benefit our region for years to come. He leaves us in a stronger position than when he arrived and I’d like to thank him for his contribution during this season.

Blues chief exec Richard Holland

Despite a raft of new players arriving at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, including Wales veteran prop Adam Jones, former New Zealand U20 outside-half Gareth Anscombe and Argentine duo Joaquín Tuculet and Lucas Amorosino, the Blues have struggled in the first half of the season, winning just four of their 15 Guinness PRO12 matches.

High hopes of the Blues finishing in the top four this season have long since been blown away and, while their are still seven rounds of the season to be played, their chances of finishing in the Guinness PRO12’s top six look increasingly unlikely with Connacht, Edinburgh and the Scarlets all battling for the final European Champions Cup qualification spot.

As the Blues’ management look to dig themselves out of another hole and restart, chief executive Richard Holland believes that, despite results on the pitch, the region are in a stronger position because of Hammett’s contribution.

“We were naturally very disappointed and surprised when Mark informed us of his decision,” Holland said.

“However, we fully understand the personal reasons he has given and he has our full support.

“We appointed Mark last summer as part of a long-term vision for Cardiff Blues.

“He has worked tirelessly in the role since his arrival in Wales and we always felt Mark was the right man to take us forward, right up until his decision to leave.

“Mark has made a number of positive changes that will benefit our region for years to come.

“He leaves us in a stronger position than when he arrived and I’d like to thank him for his contribution during this season.

“Having spoken to Mark at length, I know he’s not taken this decision lightly.”

McIntosh and John now face another arduous task in rallying the Blues as Alan Solomons and his impressive Edinburgh outfit visit the Arms Park on Sunday looking to get back to winning after their defeat to Ulster last week.

Even a European Challenge Cup quarter-final at Rodney Parade against rivals Newport Gwent Dragons in April is unlikely to give many Blues fans much to cheer about, despite a win in Newport at the start of the year.

“We now look to take the region forward under new leadership and, as we did when we appointed Mark, we will take our time and involve the right people to help us to make the right decisions for Cardiff Blues,” Holland added.

“I’d like to thank our fans for their support during this difficult period and stress to them that we are determined to put the right structures in place to ensure a successful future for their region.

“We have a very talented squad of players and coaching staff at Cardiff Blues and I know they will rally together in the coming weeks to as we look forward to a big European quarter-final with Dragons and a number of important Guinness PRO12 fixtures.”

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