Wallaby legend Stephen Larkham has been sacked as the attack coach of the side he once steered to World Cup glory as the key playmaker. Larkham was once seen as the heir apparent to head coach Michael Cheika, but as the Wallabies’ results (including attack) have faltered it became clear that a change was needed.
There has been speculation for some time that Cheika’s assistants would go, although it appeared that defence coach Nathan Grey would be first in the firing line. The head coach, however, is believed to have told told members of the Rugby Australia Board in December that he and Larkham had conflicting ideas about the attacking strategy and the game in general, and that the team were receiving mixed messages.
Grey, along with forwards coach Simon Raiwalui and skills coach Mick Byrne, will continue with Cheika and the Wallabies through to the World Cup in September. The hunt is now on to replace Larkham in time to help the team to come up with a strategy for the Rugby Championship in July.
New Director of Rugby Scott Johnson, who is working with Scotland until the conclusion of the 6 Nations tournament, will be heavily involved in the process. This indicates that an announcement will not be made soon, although Johnson is in a good position to consider Northern Hemisphere based candidates.
Larkham has been moved into a new role as National High Performance Coach Advisor, where he will work with the various coaches in the national pathway systems to try and ensure that players are being properly supported and developed. Rugby Australia are keen to keep him in their network, and will try to find him a head coaching job at a Super Rugby team as soon as possible – or possibly even the Wallabies job after the World Cup.