Larkham stops short of confirming succession plan

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Stephen Larkham aspires to the Wallabies head coaching job, but stopped short of confirming speculation that a full-time Test commitment was the first step in a national succession plan.

Larkham on Friday announced that he would be quitting his head coaching role at the Brumbies to become Australia’s full-time attack coach after the 2017 Super Rugby season.

The former Wallabies flyhalf has been earmarked as a potential Test mentor and with Cheika signed until the 2019 World Cup, discussion has swirled around Larkham’s future.

The master and the apprentice. Wallabies Head Caoch and Wallabies Assistant Coach Stephen Larkham. Photo: Getty ImagesLarkham said he was yet to decide what his plans would be after Japan 2019 but said taking up the Wallabies head role was something he would always work towards.

“I think after the World Cup campaign I'll certainly be able to look at my options and whether there's something still here with the Wallabies or whether it's overseas or back with the Brumbies I'll have to wait and see,” he said.

“I'm very focused on fulfilling my role within the staff at the moment.

“Everyone wants to aspire to be the best in their position and the head coach of the Wallabies is certainly the top role in Australia.

“That's a long way down the track, I haven't really thought about it too much but I think as a coach there's certainly aspirations to get to the top.”

Larkham will still be based in Canberra after he finishes at the Brumbies and will be ‘heavily involved’ in the appointment of the franchise’s next coach.

“I'm very passionate about the Brumbies and I want to make sure that they're steered in the right direction for this next period of time,” he said.

“We've had a number of chats about it. Obviously this decision was made public this morning but behind the scenes we've known about it for a while and we've got some things in place that will hopefully unfold in the coming months.”

While his future beyond 2019 might be unclear, Larkham’s immediate task is ensuring the Wallabies’ attack improves.

“If you have a look at the competition this year, we probably haven't scored the amount of tries we'd like to score, so that's a real challenge for me going forward."

Larkham said he felt the Aussies were beginning to build some momentum after their competitive Bledisloe display in Auckland and said they had to find the chemistry that helped them to a World Cup final in 2015.

"We had a fantastic World Cup last year and I think we exceeded expectation in that competition and I felt that the combination, the camaraderie that we had leading into the World Cup and throughout the World Cup certainly contributed to that so what we'll be looking for on this tour is to make sure that the combination and cohesion is there within the team by the end of the tour," he said.

"A number of guys have come over here with an opportunity out of NRC, some guys who haven't been capped...if things go their way they might get a cap but [it's] really just seeing how everyone fits into the puzzle on this tour."

One crucial piece of that jigsaw is Israel Folau, who Larkham said was in line for more time at outside centre, after an injury to Samu Kerevi.

"What we saw from Israel on the weekend was a few more touches in the close channels, particularly from set piece and... I think that was Izzy's best game since before the World Cup so I think he's certainly enjoying those tighter channels," he said.

"I think it worked for us in terms of our execution and our attack in the first passage of that game. So I think it's something that we'll probably experiment with on this tour."