As Michael Cheika hangs on grimly to the Wallabies job, former Test fullback Greg Martin has offered an alternative coaching dream team that he believes could restore hope ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
In extraordinary developments, it emerged that World Cup-winning former Springboks coach Jake White had offered to replace the embattled Cheika and was scheduled to have a phone hook-up with Rugby Australia on Thursday.
But when that news leaked, RA embarrassingly decided to hang up the phone.
“Jake White approached Rugby Australia and asked to have a conversation,” a spokesman said.
“Rugby Australia has decided not to proceed with the call.”
So now it appears RA has alienated both Cheika and a viable replacement option in White, who led South Africa to victory at the 2007 World Cup.
The RA board is set to meet on December 10 for its end of season review and issued a statement on Thursday.
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“We acknowledge and understand the frustrations of Wallabies fans over recent results and we are completing a thorough review ahead of an important year for the team which culminates with the Rugby World Cup in Japan,” RA chief executive Raelene Castle said.
“The outcomes of the full review will be presented at the December meeting of the Rugby Australia board with Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika in attendance.”
On the Fox Rugby Podcast, Martin was emphatic in his belief that the Wallabies coaching team must be overhauled after winning just four of 13 Tests this season and falling to sixth on the world rankings.
The current coaching staff consists of Cheika (head coach), Stephen Larkham (backs), Simon Raiwalui (forwards), Mick Byrne (skills) and Nathan Grey (defence).
Martin suggested a new lineup of White (head coach), along with Reds coach Brad Thorn (forwards), Brumbies assistant Laurie Fisher (forwards) and former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith (backs).
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“Every rugby fan is losing hope and any organisation should realise that a sports fan needs hope,” Martin said.
“Not hype, hope.
“At the moment the situation is completely hopeless as seen by fans and you’ve got to make them happy.
“We need changes.
“The set pieces have been woeful, especially the lineouts.
“We’ve got to fix our attack and our defence.
“They’re wonderful men but I’m sorry, that doesn’t matter a stuff.
“This is a business and we have to make changes.”
White is currently coaching Toyota Verblitz in Japan but has the desire to return to the international arena.
“He’s got the template to take a team quickly to the World Cup,” Martin said.
“We’ve got to make changes because then rugby fans will say ‘oh, righto, they’re doing something.’
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“Because at the moment inaction seems to be the motto for the Australian Rugby Union.
“Jack Gibson used to say that after four years, the message of a coach wears off.
“Maybe it has worn off because Cheik’s always been great with the passion, getting players to buy in.
“Maybe that’s over now, especially when you ask them to buy in and you continually lose, like this year.”
Former Fiji international Raiwalui replaced now Argentina coach Mario Ledesma as the forwards specialist this season and the set piece, in particular, has struggled.
“Lineouts, scrums and the breakdowns have been woeful,” Martin said.
“So I’m saying Brad Thorn and Laurie Fisher — have those two appointed to run the forwards operation
“You need a new voice and Brad Thorn is a huge one, for the attitude and mental toughness.
Laurie Fisher, he’s great for the technical, especially the breakdown — mainly the maul but also the ruck.
“And both of them are masters at the lineout and scrum.
“It seems like the perfect operation.”
While Thorn and Fisher are already coaching in Australia, Smith would seemingly be a harder get.
Nicknamed ‘The Professor,’ the former All Blacks five-eighth has helped coach New Zealand to two World Cups and is regardest as one of the best in the business.
Smith has finished his work with the All Blacks and is currently director of rugby with Japan’s Kobe Steelers while also serving as a consultant with Italy.
“The All Blacks are making noises that they want to re-recruit him because they’re having trouble in attack,” Martin said, adding that he felt the challenge of resurrecting the Wallabies would prove tempting for the proud New Zealander.
“What he’s done for the backline, about 15 years ago, the All Blacks were woeful.
“Now they are the best attacking force in backline play and that’s because of Wayne Smith.
“So he is clearly the answer in terms of technical.
“He wasn’t as good a player as Stephen Larkham and maybe Bernie’s having trouble getting his message through — the way we drift across field all the time.
“So Wayne Smith, why not?
“The Wallabies aren’t going to beat the All Blacks, most likely, in the next year, so why wouldn’t he do it, for ambition.
“Can somebody just ask him?
“It can’t be any worse than what it is now and we’ve got to make a change.
“No-one’s got any hope any more.
“But we change things and bring in some outside eyes — they’ve got time.
“If they make the final I’m happy for people to tell me to jam it up my backside.
“But right now we’re a million miles away and we’ve got to try something different.”