After more than a quarter-century in rugby and a resume that has taken him from his native Wales to Russia, Canada coach Kingsley Jones has assembled an impressive Rolodex.
Jones, 50, has used that network to assemble an all-star coaching staff at the Rugby World Cup. All are on temporary duty with Canada at the tournament, with Jones mining his contacts while helping Rugby Canada’s budget.
Canada opens World Cup play Thursday against Italy.
Here is a look at the Canadian brain trust in Japan:
Sir Graham Henry (special adviser)
There isn’t much the 73-year-old Kiwi hasn’t won, from Super Rugby championships with the Auckland Blues in 1996 and ‘97 to the World Cup in 2011 with the All Blacks.
Henry coached the All Blacks to 88 wins in 103 test matches for a winning percentage of 85.4 per cent. He also led Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
Henry, a friend of Jones’s father back in the day, was named World Rugby’s coach of the year in 2005, ‘06, ‘08, ‘10 and ‘11. More recently he has advised Argentina and Irish club side Leinster.
After Henry took over as Wales coach in 1998, he made Jones his captain before a ruptured Achilles sidelined the forward.
“He wrote me a letter telling me after I finish playing I should take up coaching. In his words, ‘I think you’ll be a good one,”’ Jones recalled. “I kept that letter. It meant a lot to me. I often remind him about that. And he’s always been a help to me.”
Henry was in Vancouver in May and had lunch with Jones, who asked him to come on board for the tournament. Jones then spent some time with Henry in Auckland to discuss the Canadian campaign.
“He wants to give back to the game. He loves Canada. He’s always had respect for Canadian rugby,” said Jones.
Richard Wigglesworth (defence coach)
An accomplished international scrum half, Wigglesworth started as a 20-year-old in the Sale Sharks academy under Jones. By the time Jones moved on, Wigglesworth was starting for the Sharks.
“An incredible leader,” Jones recalled. “Almost like part of the coaching staff as young kid. Always setting standards.”
Since moving to Saracens in 2010, Wigglesworth has made more than 200 appearances and won five Premiership titles and three European Cups. On the international front, he has earned 31 caps for England and gone to two World Cups. Still with Saracens, he moonlights as attack coach for the Championship side Ealing Trailfinders.
An injury took the 36-year-old out of the running for the England rugby team in Japan.
“England’s loss was our gain,” said Jones.
Gruff Rees (attack coach)
Rees, whose first name is pronounced Griff, has ties to Canadian captain Tyler Ardron and wing Jeff Hassler from his time as a coach with the Ospreys in his native Wales. He also worked with top Welsh talent like Dan Biggar, James Hook and Rhys Webb.
“Massive experience,” said Jones.
“I’ve always had respect for the way he coached, the way he managed himself,” he added.
Rees’ current role is Cardiff Blues’ academy manager.
Boris Stankovich (set piece coach)
The New Zealand-born Stankovich played prop for Albi in France and Bath, London Irish, Coventry and Leicester Tigers in England as well as Newport Gwent Dragons in Wales in a playing career that stretched from 1999 to 2016.
He spent seven years with Leicester, captaining the team in 2011.
Jones, during his time with the Russian national team, initially looked at Stankovich in the hope he might have Russian bloodlines. He didn’t but the six-foot-one, 250-pounder went on to play two seasons under Jones at Newport.
“He was a standout player for us, an experienced player, but also led the scrum for me,” Jones said.
After retiring, the 39-year-old Stankovich went on to become Leicester’s scrum coach. He is on leave from Leicester to join Canada at the tournament.