Ex-All Black Casey Laulala to coach at Christ's College after leaving Paris cafe culture

Former All Black and Crusaders back Casey Laulala has joined ex-teammate Reuben Thorne in coaching promising rugby players at Christ’s College in Christchurch.

Recently returned from Europe, where he has lived for the past decade, Laulala has been appointed development coach for the school. His role will be to hone junior players’ skills and their approach to rugby.

Laulala, 39, won three caps for the All Blacks between 2004 and 2007, and played on three Crusaders Super Rugby title winning teams.

He is famous for scoring the match-winning try in the ‘Foggy Final’ against the Hurricanes in 2006.

Stephen Dods, master in charge of rugby at Christ’s College, said Laulala will bring another dimension to the school’s rugby teams.

“Casey has a fantastically well-rounded approach. He’s had a lot of experience coaching and playing rugby, and his overseas experience has exposed him to a wide range of skill sets and rugby philosophies. I think this will make him particularly appealing to our junior players who want to have fun, feel safe and enjoy playing rugby.”

Samoa-born Laulala left New Zealand in 2010 for the Cardiff Blues, followed by Munster, and then Racing Metro in Paris.

After hanging up his boots in 2018, he had a spell as a skills coach in Toulon.

He has lived in Paris for the past six years where he owns a Michelin-starred restaurant, Itacoa, with Brazilian chef Rafael Gomes.

Laulala – older brother of current All Blacks prop Nepo Laulala – even has his own brand of coffee, Lecase Paris.

With the restaurant closed for the past eight months because of the Covid-19 lockdown, Laulala decided it was time to return home with his three young children.

“It felt like it was time to come back. If we didn’t do it now, we wondered if we ever would. We’re really enjoying the freedom here and the new Christchurch vibe.”

Laulala is looking forward to being involved with school rugby at Christ’s College.

“One of the things I learnt when I moved to Canterbury playing rugby was the importance of team. If each person understands that they are part of a whole – that’s when the magic starts to happen. When you serve each other, it’s a beautiful thing, and you become a family.

“It all starts with the mindset. Everyone has a different approach when they come into a team, and then they quickly realise they are there not just for themselves but for a bigger purpose. That’s when you bring the family theme to life.

“In business, I’ve learnt the importance of asking the right questions. You don’t give people all the answers. There needs to be that ‘ah-ha’ moment when the lightbulb goes on.”