In a remarkable twist, former British and Irish Lions winner Geoff Parling has joined Dave Rennie's Wallabies coaching ticket after Brumbies coach Dan McKellar pulled out and his forwards coach, Laurie Fisher, couldn't take up the role either.
Parling, who has been with the Rebels since 2018 as a player first and then an assistant coach, is the final piece of the coaching jigsaw puzzle ahead of the Wallabies' Test season.
He joins South African Petrus du Plessis (scrum), Matt Taylor (defence) and Scott Wisemantel (attack) under New Zealander Rennie.
Up until recently, McKellar was expected to join the Wallabies as the forwards coach after the completion of the Super Rugby AU season, where his Brumbies will host the final against the Queensland Reds on Saturday evening in Canberra.
But the decision by his assistant Peter Hewat, who last year led the Australian Schoolboys to a famous win over New Zealand across the ditch, to leave the Brumbies at season's end to take up a coaching role in Japan saw McKellar decide to withdraw from the Wallabies to make sure his next attack coach is completely up to speed by the time the 2021 season starts.
With McKellar making the admirable and tough decision to prioritise the Brumbies, Rennie sounded out his assistant Fisher - the highly respected forwards coach - but he too couldn't take up the job due to family commitments, The Australian reports.
Rennie had long hoped that McKellar would join his coaching team with the long-term view that the Brumbies coach would one day have the international experience to take over from him, particularly with Rugby Australia hopeful of securing the rights to host the 2027 World Cup.
“In the end he has had to make a decision,” Rennie told The Australian.
“My thinking with Dan is that I was looking for someone beyond my time and Dan has the ability to coach the Wallabies, so the thinking was to get him into the team and have him ready to go post the (2023) World Cup. But obviously that is not going to happen the way I planned it.
“We are going to go with someone who has the skill-set to do the job and to have an intimate knowledge of the players. So we have asked Geoff Parling to come in. He is a very highly respected coach among the boys. He is the obvious choice.”
McKellar is contracted with the Brumbies for the 2021 season and whether he joins Rennie's coaching team at some point remains to be seen.
Fisher - who is considered the best breakdown coach in the country - could also join the Wallabies in 2021.
For the time being though, Rennie has turned to Parling as a stopgap measure.
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Parling, who played in each of the Lions' Tests during their series win over the Wallabies in 2013 and played 29 times for England, is considered a lineout guru and is well respected at the Rebels.
“We’re very lucky to get the services of someone of Geoff’s ability at such short notice, especially considering he already has an intimate knowledge of the players," Rennie said in a statement.
“He is a good man. He’s technically very strong around lineout and maul and he has impressed me with his work ethic to get up to speed over the last two weeks.
“There have been a lot of challenges so far in 2020 and we’ve had to be agile and adaptable, none more so than Geoff who has already made so many sacrifices while being on the road with Rebels this season but he still jumped at the opportunity to join our team."
Parling added: “I’ve really enjoyed helping develop the players we’ve had in Melbourne, so to now get the opportunity to join Dave’s coaching team for this Test season is a real honour.
“There is some great talent here, but we won’t get anywhere without hard work. I have high expectations of the group and am looking forward to seeing them rip in."
The Wallabies will play the All Blacks in two Tests across the ditch on October 11 and October 18, before returning to Australia where the nation will host The Rugby Championship.
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