Foreigner possible for next Wallabies coach, Cheika says he'd stay if World Cup was won

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson says the search for the next Wallabies coach will have "Australia's interests at heart" but that won't rule out a foreign coach.

And current Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says he may not be walking out the door after the World Cup anyway, re-iterating that if Australia wins the tournament he will have "earned the right to stay on as coach".

Cheika's future emerged as a topic of conversation ahead of the Wallabies' first Test in South Africa, with Johnson asked about his recruitment plans mid-week prior to Cheika addressing the issue himself at the team announcement.

Cheika has said in the past that he would certainly walk away unless the Wallabies win the World Cup Japan tournament, and he re-stated the high bar he had set himself on Thursday.

"I've been pretty transparent since day one," he said.

"I believe I should put myself on the line. Winning the World Cup is the dream of all of us.

"Saturday's the big focus right now, winning the World Cup is a dream that we want to turn into reality.

"I know most people would think that's a pipe dream but we don't.

"I know that we came second last time and this is a four-year run.

"You come first next time, I'll have earned the right to stay on as the coach I think. If we don't, someone else gets the opportunity, I think that's pretty straightforward, I think that's fair. 

"I'm a hard marker of myself as well and that's what I want to achieve for the game, it'd be great for our game back home. I'm prepared to put myself on the line for it and I know our players will as well."

Rugby Australia has already begun the process of looking into potential candidates to take over the role should Cheika move on, with former Chiefs coach Dave Rennie consistently linked to the position in recent months.

Rennie is believed to be the front-runner but Johnson kept his cards close to his chest when asked whether the Kiwi was in the mix for the job, stressing his immediate focus was also on helping the Wallabies as they begin their Test season.

"Everyone that's coaching around the world's in the frame," he said.

"We're trying to find someone that suits (but) we've got a job to do here, the coach can wait."

While he wouldn’t provide any insight on those coaches who had caught their eye, Johnson said the work to look into candidates had already begun with "Australia's interest" at heart.

“We’re doing our due diligence,” he said.

“It’s not like we’re sitting back and doing nothing.

“We’re understanding that we’ve got a process. We’ve also got to respect processes here.

“We get paid to do certain parts of the job and we’ll do a proper process. Rest assured that Australia’s interest is at heart.

“That’s what we’ve got because we want to make sure the Wallaby rugby is good at all levels.

“We’re not being flippant about it because coaching is important to me at all levels.”

One factor that won’t be weighted too heavily is their nationality, with Johnson saying that a coach’s on-field credentials will be the primary criteria.

Johnson has spent the better part of a decade overseas before returning to Australia to take up his new role and said he would be a hypocrite if he ruled out considering coaches of all nationalities.

“It’s hypocritical for me to sit there and say that,” he said.

“I think we’re after quality, that’s what we’re after. We also need to invest in our coaching, that’s what we need to do.

“There are young coaches here of promise and we need to make sure that they are developed and we’ve got enough people there to pick from

“It’s part of the challenge going forward.

“I don’t put a nationality next to the next person. It would be nice to have Australians in place but they have to be quality and that is what we’ve got some spend some time doing."

While a number of nations have secured and announced their coaches beyond the 2019 Rugby World Cup, whether they be staying or leaving, Johnson wasn’t concerned by the uncertainty in Australia, pointing to the fact that New Zealand is also yet to appoint a successor for Steve Hansen, who is heading to Japan after the World Cup.