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Milton Haig is a New Zealand rugby union coach and former player. He is currently head coach of the Georgian national team that annually competes the European Nations Cup.

Milton Haig
Date of birth (1964-02-06) 6 February 1964 (age 55)
Place of birthInvercargill, New Zealand
SchoolSouthland Boys' High School
Children2 Children
Rugby union career
Position(s) Head Coach
Current team Georgia
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1985–87
1991–93
1993–94
1995–99
Johannesburg Pirates
Greerton Marist RFC
Preston Lodge RFC
Mount Maunganui RFC
()
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
1985
1985–86
1987–88
London Scottish
Orrell R.U.F.C.
Richmond
()
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
1983–88
1989–96
Southland
Bay of Plenty
9
52
(0)
(19)
Correct as of 2 April 2015
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1992
1992
NZ Marist
NZ presidents XV
(0)
(0)
Teams coached
Years Team
1991–93
1993–94
1995–99
2000–02
2002–07
2006, 2007
2008
2008–11
2011
2011–2019
Greerton Marist RFC
Preston Lodge RFC
Mount Maunganui RFC
Bay of Plenty (Asst. Coach)
Wanganui
New Zealand U21 (Asst. Coach)
Māori All Blacks (Asst. Coach)
Counties Manukau
Chiefs (Asst. Coach)
Georgia
Correct as of 2 April 2015

Playing careerEdit

Haig, a former half back in his playing career, started playing rugby for his school Southland Boys' High School in 1980, where he was selected for the first XV between 1980 and 1982.[1] He was selected for the New Zealand under 17s side in 1980, but did not take part in any game while in the team. In May 1982, his form for his school saw him be selected for Southland, while still being educated at school. He earned a position in the squad for the encounter against the Japanese national team at Rugby Park Stadium on 4 May 1982. He later continued to play for Southland in the National Provincial Championship, a further 4 times up until 1984.[2] In that time, he was part of the Second Division-South Island winning side in 1982 and 1984. In 1982, he was selected for the New Zealand under 19s team, but like in 1980, he did not take part in any game. He did however play for the New Zealand Marist and New Zealand President's XV teams in 1982.

Between 1985 and 1988, Haig travelled to various countries to gain experience in different cultures; between 1985 and 1987, he represented the Johannesburg Pirates in South Africa,[3] while in between 1985 and 1988 he represented London Scottish, Orrell R.U.F.C. and Richmond in England.[1] He returned to New Zealand in 1989, playing for Bay of Plenty 'B' team, where he captained the team on 3 occasions. He was promoted up to the main side in 1990, playing 48 times, including 4 as captain, between 1990 and 1996.[1][2]

Coaching careerEdit

Haig's coaching career began in 1991, where he took up a player-coaching role for Greerton Marist RFC between 1991 and 1993, during the off-season of the National Provincial Championship.[4] In 1993, he travelled to Scotland, where again, he took up a player-coaching role for Edinburgh based side Preston Lodge RFC. He would have taken up a rugby development coaching role with the Scottish Rugby Union, but was unable to take up the position due to UK work visa requirements, which meant he returned home to New Zealand. Between 1995 and 1999, he returned as a player-coach for Mount Maunganui RFC in the Baywide competition, before retiring from rugby in mid 1999.[1]

For the 2000 National Provincial Championship, Bay of Plenty signed Vern Cotter as their new head coach, and Cotter brought in Haig as his assistant.[5] They formed a formidable pairing, leading the side to Champions in the Second Division and promotion to the First Division for 2001, and keeping the team afloat in the top division long term. In 2002, Haig signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union, where he became a Resource Coach for the union, which meant the NZRU would dictate which team and role Haig would have. This meant after the 2002 NPC, Haig was transferred to Wanganui in the NPC Third Division. In his first year, he won the Third Division allowing Wanganui to promotion to the Second Division. He remained with the team until the end of the 2007 NPC Second Division season, where he led the team to a second successive runners-up position, as in 2008 he became the Counties Manukau head coach for three years.[6] In his final year in 2011, he did additional work with Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs.

As a Resource Coach for the Union, Haig worked with several of the age grade national teams while signed with the Union. Between 2003 and 2011, he ran several training camps for the New Zealand under 17s, 19s and 20s teams before their respective international tournaments. He was also assistant coach for the New Zealand under 21s team in 2006 and 2007, and in 2008 he was an assistant coach for the Māori All Blacks during their winning 2008 IRB Pacific Nations Cup campaign.[6][7]

In 2011, he was named as the Georgian national teams coach, taking over from Richie Dixon.[8]

GeorgiaEdit

In 2011, Haig was named as Georgia head coach, after being suggested by Vern Cotter, who was the GRU's first candidate, and the NZRU.[9] His first match in charge would have been on 4 February 2012 against Ukraine, but was postponed due to weather. Which meant his first match in charge was against Spain, who were the victors 25–18. It was the first time Spain had beaten Georgia since 2007, but despite this, Georgia went on to secure a 32–7 win over Portugal two weeks later. Three more wins, including a 46–0 win over Russia, meant Haig led the team to first in the 2012 ENC, and first in the overall 2011–2012 season. In June 2012, the IRB introduced a new global rugby calendar, so that Tier 2 nations could play Tier 1 or intercontinental Tier 2 opposition more often. This meant on 16 and 23 June, Georgia played the United States and Canada in away fixtures. Unfortunately for Georgia, they lost both fixtures 36–20 and 31–12 respectively.[10] The calendar continued into the end-of-year tests where Georgia hosted Japan, lost 25–22,[11] and Fiji, lost 24–19.[12]

In 2013, Georgia's campaign to qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup started, and to qualify, Haig had to lead the team to first or second in the 2012–14 European Nations Cup First Division. In the first year, Georgia finished top of the table with 19 points, narrowly ahead of Romania who were also on 19 points, but behind on points difference. But a 100% win rate in the 2014 season, saw Georgia top the table with 41 points and qualified for the World Cup as Europe 1.[13] Qualifying as Europe 1, meant for Haig he would face his native country of New Zealand.[9]

In April 2013, the IRB formed the IRB Tbilisi Cup, where Georgia would host various European teams and invitational sides from Ireland, South Africa and Argentina.[14] In 2013, Haig led Georgia to third in the table, losing only narrowly, 20–15 to Emerging Ireland and 21–16 to South Africa President's XV. Haig almost led Georgia to a first ever victory over Argentina on 22 June 2013, but a 76-minute try by Tomás Cubelli, meant Georgia left San Juan 29–18.[15] However, during the 2013 end-of-year rugby union internationals, Haig led Georgia to two victories from three, including a first ever victory for Georgia over Samoa, 16–15.[16] They also beat Canada 19–15, but lost to the United States 25–23.[17][18]

During the 2014 end-of-year rugby union internationals, Haig faced tough opposition at home and away. Firstly, Georgia had to face Tonga, who had Rugby World Cup winner coach Jake White in the coaching team. A second half surge gave Tonga a 23–9 victory, with the 3 tries in the game coming in the closing 15 minutes. A week later, a unique opportunity to face a Six Nations Championship side, in the likes of Ireland in Dublin. Despite only being 9–0 down at half time, Ireland pulled away in the second half winning 49–7.[19] On 23 November 2013, Georgia faced Japan in Tbilisi. Georgia scored 5 tries in a 35–24 victory over the Brave Blossoms.

In February and March 2015, Haig led Georgia to their second consecutive Grand Slam in the 2015 ENC. He firstly led the team to a 64–8 win over Germany, before narrowly beating Portugal 20–15 at home. Against Spain he secured a 26–13 win in Madrid, a 33–0 win over Russia, before beating Romania 15–6 to retain the Antim Cup for 5 consecutive years. Unfortunately for Haig and Georgia, the team was unable to retain their form in the 2015 World Rugby Tbilisi Cup, where they lost back to back matches to Emerging Italy 26–10 and Emerging Ireland 45–12. They did however open the tournament with a 19–10 win over Uruguay.

Despite Georgia's poor record in 2015, Georgia had a successful 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign. Georgia finished third in their pool, which meant for the first time, they had automatically qualified for the next World Cup, in 2019. They opened with a 17–10 win over Tonga, before being heavily beaten by Argentina, 54–9, and New Zealand 43–10. However, Georgia were praised for being massively competitive in their game against New Zealand, causing the All Blacks problems at the scrum, break down and defence. Georgia finished with a 17–16 win over Namibia, despite being 6–0 down at half time.

In 2016, with wins over Germany (59–7), Portugal (29–3), Spain (38–7), Russia (24–7) and Romania (38–9), Haig led Georgia to a third consecutive Grand Slam title when Georgia won the 2016 ENC. This was backed up by an undefeated tour of the Pacific Islanders in June 2016. They drew with a weakened Samoa squad, which included 9 uncapped players, 19–all, before downing Tonga 23–20. On 24 June, Georgia defeated Fiji 14–3 to earn their first ever win over the Flying Fijians, and in doing so, moved to 11th in the World Rankings, Georgia's highest ever position. Georgia became the first team to keep Fiji tryless since Wales defeated them 66–0 in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. In November 2016, a inexperienced Japanese side defeated Georgia 28−22, though Georgia went onto earn a record winning margin score against Samoa, winning 20−16. On 26 November, Georgia traveled to Scotland to play their first tier 1 nation outside a Rugby World Cup, since Ireland in 2014. Scotland won 43–16.

The 2017 Rugby Europe Championship was the first time under Haig that Georgia did not win the Championship. Having beaten all opponents; Belgium 31–6, Germany 50–6, Spain 20–10 and Russia 28–14, leading into the final week the game against Romania was the Championship decider. For the first time since 2010, Romania beat Georgia, winning 8–7 to win the Championship. During the 2017 June internationals, Haig led Georgia to two victories on their Americas tour, defeating Canada 13–0 and the United States 21–17 in what was the first time Georgia had beaten both teams away. Their third game was a 45–29 loss to Argentina. During the 2017 Autumn Internationals, Haig led his side to two victories, defeating Canada 54–22, a record winning margin, and the United States 21–20. The only loss came against Wales in Cardiff, losing 13–6, in what was a first ever meeting for the two nations.

Haig led Georgia to reclaim the Rugby Europe Championship in 2018, winning all five games; defeating Belgium 47–0, Germany 64–0, Spain 23–10, Russia 29–9 and Romania 25–16 to reclaim the Antim Cup. In June 2018, Haig took Georgia to the first ever appearance at the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup, where they faced Tonga and Fiji. Georgia won their first game 16–15, however lost to Fiji 37–15 in the second game to finish third, just behind Samoa. In addition to the Pacific Nations Cup, Georgia faced Japan in a one-off test match, in what was a historic biggest loss for Georgia against Japan, losing 28–0. The November test widow saw the much anticipated test between Georgia and Italy take place, which the Italian side won 28–17. Georgia replied with a 20–9 victory over Tonga, their only other test match in the November window.

At the start of the World Cup year, Georgia convincingly won the 2019 Rugby Europe Championship, winning all five matches. They retained the title, 6 points clear of runners-up Spain.

International matches as Head CoachEdit

Note: World Rankings Column shows the World Ranking Georgia was placed at on the following Monday after each of their matches

Record by countryEdit

Opponent Played Won Drew Lost Win ratio (%) For Against
  Argentina 3 0 0 3 000 56 128
  Belgium 5 5 0 0 100 176 25
  Canada 5 3 0 2 060 113 84
  Fiji 3 1 0 2 033 48 64
  Germany 5 5 0 0 100 289 24
  Ireland 1 0 0 1 000 7 49
  Italy 1 0 0 1 000 17 28
  Japan 5 1 0 4 020 89 118
  Namibia 1 1 0 0 100 17 16
  New Zealand 1 0 0 1 000 10 43
  Portugal 5 5 0 0 100 140 46
  Romania 8 6 1 1 075 153 79
  Russia 8 8 0 0 100 241 55
  Samoa 4 3 1 0 075 82 69
  Scotland 3 0 0 3 000 35 123
  Spain 9 8 0 1 089 257 123
  Tonga 5 4 0 1 080 93 87
  Ukraine 1 1 0 0 100 33 3
  United States 4 2 0 2 050 91 92
  Uruguay 2 2 0 0 100 46 13
  Wales 1 0 0 1 000 6 13
TOTAL 80 55 2 23 069 1943 1054

HonoursEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d "New Zealanders to Coach Georgians". site.rugby.ge. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Former Southland player to coach Georgia". www.stuff.co.nz. 4 January 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Rainy night in Georgia". www.glenajohnson.info. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Club rugby: Proud times at Greerton". nzherald. 13 July 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  5. ^ "Milton Haig has taken Georgians to a whole new level". belfasttelegraph. 12 November 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Haig head coach of Counties Manukau". www.times.co.nz. 27 January 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  7. ^ "Steelers Assistant Coach Appointed as NZ Maori Assistant Coach". www.steelers.co.nz. 25 April 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Georgia hand reins to Haig". ESPN Scrum. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Rugby: ABs to say hello to Haig's Lelos". www.nzherald.co.nz. 23 March 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Georgia Tour". ESPN Scrum. 23 June 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  11. ^ "Georgia 22 – 25 Japan". ESPN Scrum. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  12. ^ "Georgia 19 – 24 Fiji". ESPN Scrum. 24 November 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  13. ^ "2015 Rugby World Cup: Georgia and Romania qualify both book spots in tournament". Sky Sports. 23 February 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  14. ^ "Georgia will host the Tbilisi Cup for the second year this June". rugbyredefined. 15 April 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  15. ^ "Los Pumas vencieron a Georgia por 29 a 18". www.uar.com.ar. 22 June 2013. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  16. ^ "Georgia upset Samoa in Tbilisi". Planet Rugby. 26 November 2013. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  17. ^ "CANADA FALL TO GEORGIA IN TBILISI". Rugby Canada. 9 November 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  18. ^ "Siddall lifts Eagles over Georgia". USA Rugby. 16 November 2013. Archived from the original on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  19. ^ "Ireland power past Georgia". ESPN Scrum. 16 November 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2015.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
  Richie Dixon
Georgian national rugby coach
2012-present
Succeeded by