Spotlight on Six Nations in hunt for Wallabies coach candidates

The wise observers are not getting carried away by the early Super Rugby fairy floss and are focusing on the Six Nations. Apart from being an early World Cup guide, it could provide the identity of the next Wallabies head coach.

Warren Gatland or Eddie Jones may soon be wearing a Wallabies tracksuit. It doesn’t matter what Michael Cheika does at this year’s World Cup – he will not be Wallabies coach in 2020.

Mellowed with age: Eddie Jones could be the man to revive the Wallabies’ fortunes.Credit:AP

The figure who will wield enormous power post-Cheika is Scott Johnson. Rugby Australia’s recently appointed director of rugby is intimate with the Six Nations coaches, including Gatland and Jones, and realises that to get the Wallabies out of the deep hole they find themselves in, a strong, intelligent, crafty figurehead is required.

Gatland and Jones fit the bill as ideal candidates to take over from the underwhelming Cheika. The Wallabies gig intrigues a lot of international coaches because they know they can do no worse than Cheika. The only way is up.

Gatland has been coy about what he is doing after the Six Nations – in one interview even suggesting he might coach in New Zealand. However, Gatland and the autocratic head of New Zealand rugby Steve Tew are not close.

Coaching Australia, we’ve been told by authoritative overseas snouts, could easily appeal to Gatland. Jones was sacked as Wallabies coach in 2005, but has mellowed since then and there are many hovering around RA head office who believe he would get the Wallabies back on track because he understands the beast.

In recent years, Jones has comprehensively outcoached Cheika in England-Australia Tests. For a proper insight into Jones, read Mike Colman’s excellent biography, Eddie Jones, Rugby Maverick. It includes important background on a coach whom R&M regards as the most knowledgeable he has tussled with.

Jones and Johnson

Jones and Johnson have a rich history. Johnson was Jones’ coaching assistant when Australia A defeated the 2001 British and Irish Lions 28-25 at Gosford. Australia A’s captain was Phil Waugh, now an RA director, while Wallabies assistant coach Nathan Grey lined up in the centres against a strong Lions outfit which included Lawrence Dallaglio, Jason Robinson and Jason Leonard. Later, Jones pursued Johnson to join his Wallabies coaching staff. Johnson declined. Watch this space.

Good panel pick

It’s taken an eternity, but Rugby Australia has finally made a good decision. Adding Michael O’Connor to the Test selection panel was wise as he can pick talent and knows the game backwards.
O’Connor’s early comments, including wanting to play David Pocock at No.7, are encouraging. Not before time. The Pooper (Pocock/Michael Hooper) back-row combination looks pooped.
And surely the World Cup hopes of serial offender Tolu Latu are now over. The Waratahs hooker’s inability to control himself makes him a major liability. Latu was given one chance too many and, with it, a deserved six-week suspension. Time to look elsewhere.

Repeat offender: When will Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu learn his lesson?Credit:EPA

Gnats all, folks

Fox Sports’ coverage of three of the four Australian football codes is generally first-rate. The rugby league, AFL and football coverage is balanced, informative and often cutting edge.
The NRL 360 and AFL 360 programs are obligatory viewing as they involve brave, independent commentary that properly analyses the respective codes. NRL 360’s interview of sacked Penrith coach Anthony Griffin last year was compelling.

Sadly, Fox Sports’ coverage of Australian rugby falls way short of a pass mark. It is ruined by too many of those involved being closely aligned to RA, some to the extent of being well-paid RA staff members, or are deeply indebted to Wallabies coach Cheika.

The bland message often verges on blatant RA propaganda. Thankfully, Greg Martin provides honest comments, but he is one of the very few. Others prepared to be critical have been moved on.
Then they have the irritating gnats who use social media to repeatedly denigrate those not sucked in by the official line.

One appalling example last week was Drew Mitchell posting to R&M on Twitter a strange article about Bernard ‘‘I’m not driven by outcomes’’ Foley. Far more intriguing was what was underneath the article: a link to an eye-popping story revolving around saucy revelations of a person’s amazing sex drive.

This smutty piece, littered with expletives, shocked numerous younger readers who alerted R&M. Intriguingly, that grubby link had mysteriously disappeared a day later, replaced by a lewd story about women’s private parts. More unsavoury reading. Shoddy, shameful ‘homework’, Master Mitchell.

Then again, as they say in the TV game, Australian rugby brain-washing sometimes involves “polishing a turd’’. Better not say that on air, though, as one Fox Sports commentator discovered late last season. It caused all sorts of drama.

Rumour has it

● Is a big-name former Wallaby really pocketing a substantial ‘finder’s fee’ when introducing financiers and sponsors to the Australian Rugby Foundation?
● A returning trouble-maker of a Wallaby had better be careful as CCTV footage exists of him scratching his initials in an overseas hotel lift. Will he and his sneaky high-profile footy mates ever grow up?
● Rugby Australia is developing a reputation for promising people big jobs then reneging. Ask a notable former Wallaby forward.

Quote of the week

“I didn’t know Warren had a degree in clinical psychology, so let me know I might go and see him as well.”
– England coach Eddie Jones on Welsh counterpart Warren Gatland describing his prop Kyle Sinckler as an ‘‘emotional time-bomb.’’

Source: Read Full Article