Wallabies to unveil Larkham's replacement
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is set to unveil his mystery World Cup attack coach with less than 100 days until the Japan rugby tournament.
Director of Rugby Scott Johnson said on Thursday an announcement would be made within the next week of the replacement for Wallaby Stephen Larkham, who was controversially axed in February.
The new man will have just five Tests to hone their attack before their World Cup opener.
Johnson, who held the role at the 2007 World Cup, when Australia had its worst ever result with a quarter-final exit, said he didn’t consider taking on the position himself.
“There will be a decision made in the next couple of days,” Johnson said.
“There’s been reasons why we’ve held off … we’ve been looking at the candidates, some are internal and some have got other jobs to do so there will be an announcement imminently.”
Former Wallabies back Matt Giteau, Brian Smith are believed to be in the mix as well as Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson and Rebels assistant Shaun Berne.
Cheika is believed to have had someone in mind for the past month, pointing to the last two candidates who are tied up with Super Rugby.
Speaking at a Melbourne Rebels function ahead of the final round of Super Rugby, Johnson said he felt the World Cup would be the most hotly contested but the Wallabies would be in the mix.
“I think New Zealand’s dominance is probably a little closer than it was in previous World Cups and I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner lost a pool game,” Johnson said.
“There are five or six teams who could win but it’s a fickle competition in favour of us – the weather will be good and the decks will be fast and that will suit us.”
Former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock, who was also part of the guest panel, turned up the heat on Johnson and said he needed to make his mark on the Test side if they were to succeed.
“Johnno [Johnson] has a big role to play,” Mortlock said.
“A lot of people are talking about leadership in rugby in Australia and everything with this Wallabies outfit needs to be a well-oiled machine.
“I think Australia can do something special however the Test matches prior to the World Cup are critical for us to stamp our authority.”
Meanwhile, Johnson said he believed the Wallabies could move on from the Israel Folau saga which damaged the Waratahs’ Super Rugby season, with continued legal action threatening the World Cup.
“A lot of time has been devoted to it and now we’ve got to focus on performing in the World Cup and in Test matches,” Johnson said.
“Israel’s doing his thing and he’s got a right to do that and we’ve got to get on with playing rugby and I think the players are professional enough to understand that.”