Brumbies coach Jake White set the cat among the pigeons yesterday when he said he had “unfinished international business”, and wanted to coach the Wallabies.
Robbie Deans’ contract as incumbent Wallaby coach runs out at the end of the year.
Current Reds coach Ewen McKenzie is favoured as Deans’ replacement if the Kiwi’s contract isn’t renewed by the ARU, or he wants to return to Christchurch.
So a lot will depend on how the men-in-gold shape up against the Lions.
But with White effectively throwing his hat into the ring, it’s an entirely different ball game.
“Let’s make one thing quite clear. My first priority is to the Brumbies for this season and the next two.
“What happens after that, who knows?”
It would be fair to say that McKenzie and White would be the only realistic candidates if Deans goes for whatever reason.
Which makes the performances of the Reds and Brumbies in the Super Rugby tournament this season the key.
As it sits, the Brumbies are riding high unbeaten by playing entertaining and very controlled rugby, proved last night with their no mean feat 29-10 demolition of the Sharks in Durban.
While the Reds have been winning ugly until last night, when they were out-gunned by the lowly Force 19-12 for the biggest shock result this season.
It was the Force’s first success at Suncorp in six attempts, their first win this season, and coach Michael Foley’s first win after 11 straight losses dating back to his last season’s horror stretch with the Waratahs.
White is up and running, McKenzie is treading water.
To be fair, White has a full roster of fit players playing superb rugby.
McKenzie still has skipper-lock James Horwill out of action, and he’s been joined by centre Anthony Fainga’a and winger Dom Shipperley, three important cogs in the McKenzie machinery.
And last night crack winger Digby Ioane was missing on suspension.
But Will Genia is back after six months on the sidelines with a knee reconstruction, As a safety measure he only played the first 40, He was a bit rusty, but he’s still a class act even below par.
While White has all his big guns firing, Quade Cooper is not firing for McKenzie, not by a long shot.
His passing is third rate, his timing is off, so too his confidence.
On the other side of the coin, tireless flanker Liam Gill is going gangbusters and last night he kept the Reds in with a sniff, however small.
But the Reds won’t look like the real Reds until the main attractions are all back, and the renowned Genia-Cooper combination starts setting the back line alight.
One thing McKenzie has to do is make sure Ben Tapuai has more time and space in the midfield to strut his talented stuff.
Tapuai is both quick and strong and can be electric given the chance. Genia and Cooper must give him that chance.
Next up the Reds take on the always challenging Bulls at Suncorp. With a bit of luck Horwill will be back, but will obviously be well short of match fitness.
But right now, it’s all about the Brumbies, the only unbeaten side in the tournament, and deservedly so.
And about Jake White’s future.