Barnes, currently Assistant Coach at the Gallagher Chiefs, has inked a two-year deal with Taranaki Rugby.
Neil Barnes joined the Chiefs in 2016 after coaching internationally and has been there for six years while working under Dave Rennie, Colin Cooper and Warren Gatland.
The dairy farmer brings a wealth of coaching experience to the role, having spent 2009-2015 as the Assistant Coach for Canada, including two Rugby World Cup campaigns. He also worked as Fiji’s Assistant Coach from 2017to 2019, including the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Previously Barnes was the Assistant Coach for the Taranaki Bulls from 2003 to 2007 and in 2009. Neil has a wealth of Taranaki club rugby knowledge after coaching in the province, which resulted in seven titles with New Plymouth Old Boys between 1993-1998 and again in 2002.
The 1993 win was the first Senior A Championship title for the club since 1957. Barnes also represented the Taranaki Bulls as a hard-working lock in 1986.
Barnes was grateful for the chance to return to coach his home province.
“I am a Taranaki person at heart, born and bred, love my province and the people in it deep down. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me, that I am genuinely excited about returning home and taking on the Head Coach role.
I was fortunate enough to be involved with the Taranaki Bulls team last season, we had our ups and downs, but we’ve got a good group of young men there who I believe will get better,” said Barnes.
Taranaki Rugby Chief Executive Officer Laurence Corlett was delighted about the appointment.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have secured Neil Barnes, such a high-quality coach, to lead the Taranaki Bulls over the next two years. Neil will add a lot of experience and old schoolwork ethic to the Head Coach role, and he will lead Taranaki Rugby forward on and off the field. I am extremely excited about the future of rugby here in Taranaki.”
Taranaki Rugby Chairman Andrew Thompson believes the coaching experiences Neil has enjoyed over the last 10 years is impressive.
“Neil is hugely passionate about Taranaki Rugby and it was a big draw to applying for the role. To have someone with his international and Super Rugby experience at the helm of our Taranaki Bulls team is exciting for all involved.”
Chiefs Rugby Club CEO Michael Collins was enthusiastic about Barnes taking on the Yarrows Taranaki Bulls Head Coach role.
“Neil is a great coach and who has had a massive contribution both on and off the pitch with the Chiefs. He has coached at every level of the game in New Zealand and internationally.
“Having our coaches involved with our Provincial Union’s is a great fit for us and has been successful with Roger involved with Waikato and Clayton involved with Bay of Plenty. Taking on the Yarrows Taranaki Bulls Head Coach role is a great fit for a loyal Taranaki and Gallagher Chiefs man. We are excited to see what Neil will achieve as Head Coach and wish him all the best in his tenure with one of the Chiefs Rugby Club’s foundation investors,” said Collins.
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan welcomed Barnes’ appointment.
“Neil is a passionate and loyal Taranaki man who will give his heart and soul to the Head Coach role. He holds a wealth of knowledge, will hold people accountable, and will establish a strong rapport with his players. This all bodes well for the Taranaki team and its supporters.”
Barnes will return to Taranaki once he has completed his Gallagher Chiefs Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, however, will work closely with Yarrows Taranaki Bulls players in the coming months.
Taranaki Rugby will appoint its Yarrows Taranaki Bulls selectors and management team over the coming weeks.