Happiness is Egg Shaped interview Iain Cleland, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Taranaki Rugby, NZ.

Iain Cleland is a Scottish S & C coach currently working in New Zealand with Mitre 10 Cup squad Taranaki. He has also been involved with the NZ U20 squad during the Junior World Cup. Happiness is Egg Shaped are delighted to get an insight into his job and thoughts on the game.ITM Cup


How has a Glasgow boy ended up as Head Strength and Conditioning coach at Taranaki?!

I was working for the Scottish Rugby Union and Lorna (now wife) wanted to travel. I wasn’t keen on the back-packing thing so we decided to look for jobs. She’s a PE teacher so we knew she could pick up work, so it was more down to me to find something. A job came up with North Harbour Rugby and I went for it and got it! I was lucky enough to get the post so it was just a case of sorting visas and then we were away. After that I managed to get a position with the Blues in Super Rugby as an assistant coach and then down to Taranaki as the Head S&C.

Can you give an insight into your working week during the season?

The Mitre 10 Cup competition is unique in that we can play games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. So every week can be different. If we play Saturday, then Sunday is Recovery with some individual planning for the players. Monday I have a weights window all morning then we train in the afternoon. Tuesday we have gym and a training which tends to be our biggest session. Wednesday is off for the players and I catch up on any admin. Thursday we have a gym and clarity session in the morning and a shorter intense session in the afternoon. Friday there is another gym option and Captain’s run to prepare for the game the next day.

Having worked in both Scotland and New Zealand, where do you see are the differences in approaches to training and development?

I get asked this quite a lot and it’s not easy to answer as I’ve been away from Scotland for over 7 years now. In my opinion there may be a few reasons.

  1. Kids in NZ are more active in a variety of activities.

  2. Rugby is the dominant sport by miles.

  3. The weather is better.

  4. Everything is geared towards the All Blacks performing.

You have taken chances and had to deal with many difficulties, how have you applied a Growth Mindset in your career and life?

I’d say I strive for a Growth Mindset. I don’t think you decide to have it and that’s it. Some days are easier than others! I try and take every opportunity I have to grow as a person and in my profession. It’s important to seek feedback also but you have to be aware of who is giving the feedback. I’m lucky to be around some people who are absolutely outstanding at what they do so I value any piece of advice I can get. Sport can be challenging for a number of different reasons but you have to embrace it and try to keep on learning from every experience.

YarrowYou have experienced success with both Taranaki and NZ 20s, what are your top 3 highlights in rugby?

  • Winning the ITM Cup with Taranaki,

  • Winning the JWC in 2015,

  • Seeing players, I have worked with getting called into Super Rugby franchises, the All Blacks and more recently the Olympic 7s team.


There is a LOT of information around training, fitness and conditioning – often too much and it can be confusing for players without access to qualified coaches. What priorities do you think amateur players should have for their conditioning?

  • Consistency of training.

  • Get in a routine.

  • Keep it simple.

How do you deal with players who don’t want to put in the work or who want to do too much?

Finding out their motivation or their “why” is important. If you can get to the point they understand that it will be of benefit to their performance on the pitch, then you are away! It can take a while. If it doesn’t happen then they can end up moving on as others are willing to put in the work.

Who or what gives you inspiration?

Family is massive for me. It’s not easy being so far away but it makes it special when you catch up.

What does the future hold for your career?JWC

Great question. I’d like to either go back into Super Rugby or if an opportunity arises, head back to Europe in some capacity. In an ideal world it would be in France or Italy as we’d love our son to grow up speaking a different language.

Eggs – scrambled, poached or boiled?


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We wish Iain every success for the upcoming Mitre 10 Cup season with Taranaki and for the future in his career.


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