Whitaker coming home to Waratahs

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Former Wallabies scrumhalf Chris Whitaker will return home to the Waratahs next season after signing a two-year coaching deal.

Whitaker has been on the Waratahs' radar for some time and he has inked a contract to assist coach Daryl Gibson, who has extended his tenure to at least 2019.

The 48-Test halfback will join Simon Cron as a Waratahs assistant, after the departure of attack coach Chris Malone.

Whitaker has a long history in Australia and overseas, playing with Leinster before coaching in France with Stade Francais and most recently co-coaching Pro D2 side Montauban.

Gibson said his global experience would be a major asset for the club.

"I've talked to him a lot about France and the different ideas and that's probably what attracted us to him," he said.

"The fact that he'll bring a lot of different ideas from the Northern Hemisphere and the French competition and that diversity to our thinking, which I think is important.

"I think it's really important that you have a range of different philosophies and certainly Chris being Australian but having that French experience for so long and in Ireland as well, having played over there, I think the world suddenly is getting very small in terms of the coaching ideas.

"Defensively, we tend to be following the northern hemisphere at present. I think that'll be a great addition to us.

Daryl Gibson. Photo: Getty ImagesWith Whitaker on board, Gibson is set to take over the Waratahs' attack on top of his head coaching duties after controlling the defence in 2018.

Whitaker's exact role will be sorted out once he arrives in Australia and the coaching staff has an opportunity to discuss their plans but it seems likely that he will pick up defence. 

"He's the type of character we want in the club and while I don't know Chris well, I'm looking forward to getting to know him and seeing what his strengths are and how he fits into our coaching team," Gibson said.

Gibson has signed a flexible two-year deal, extending through to 2019 with an option for 2020.

The 2018 season was Gibson's third in charge and it was by far his best, taking the team to its first semi-final since 2015 and doubling its win rate from a dismal 2017.

"It's the combination of a lot of effort from the players, administratively and as coaches," he said.

"We're trying to be more consistent and get better every day.

"We're pleased to get to where we were but we're really determined to take that extra step and see if we can do better next year."

With their coaching group sorted out, Gibson's next job moves to player recruitment.

The Waratahs coach said that would be a relatively quiet area going into 2019 with a host of players already locked in for the season.

They have farewelled four players - Paddy Ryan, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Andrew Kellaway and Irae Simone - but are optimistic about retaining the big three of Bernard Foley, Michael Hooper and Israel Folau.