Michael Cheika is under pressure. The Wallabies are under pressure. Australian rugby is under pressure.
Even if Cheika pulls off a miracle World Cup win in Japan, it is a safe to assume he will walk or be pushed away from the Australian coaching role. If Australian rugby fans are honest, a World Cup win won’t make up for the last four years of borderline mediocrity from their national team.
The appointment of the next Wallabies coach will be a defining moment for Australian rugby. Who they appoint is a massive decision.
So which Kiwi will it be?
Australian coaching stocks are bare. There aren’t many knocking down Rugby Australia’s door. Scott Johnson, solid yes. Eddie Jones, um? Why settle for solid with so many outstanding New Zealand coaches available.
Schmidt is the current Irish coach and will leave his post after the World Cup. He has coached Ireland to a record high ranking of No.2 in the world.
He has broken hoodoos and made history. He has beaten the All Blacks… twice. He is the reigning international coach of the year.
Schmidt is returning to New Zealand for family reasons after the World Cup and said he is finished with coaching. Australian rugby would be negligent if they did not make an inquiry to see if Schmidt’s mind could not be changed.
Fresh from another Six Nations crown, the current Wales coach is also returning to New Zealand rugby to coach the Chiefs in Super Rugby next season.
New Zealand Rugby have been generous enough to let him take on the role of the British and Irish Lions coach in 2021. This is a 12-month appointment that could prove a sticking point if Australia were interested. An attempt should still be made.
Challenged Steve Hansen for the All Blacks coaching role back in 2012. Since then he has honed his craft in France and as head coach of Scotland.
He turned the Scots into a side capable of challenging the big nations consistently and achieving some great results in the process.
Not as high-profile as the first two coaches, but he is highly respected around the world as a straight-shooting, honest coach. He would be a good fit for what Australian rugby needs.
The only man to have won a hat trick of Super Rugby titles as both a player and coach. He just led the Crusaders to a three-peat.
A more laid-back attitude with break-dancing moves thrown in, he would be a fresh face for the Wallabies and someone the weary die-hard fans could embrace.
Never say never. Ewen McKenzie’s win ratio was 50 per cent… Michael Cheika’s, let’s not go there. Robbie Deans’ was 59 per cent.
As harshly as he was judged by many fans, a 59 per cent win ratio would have been swallowed up with pleasure considering the results over the last few seasons.
He has been plying his trade at Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan over the past few seasons. Australian rugby has done far worse in recent times.
There are other options out there – Tony Brown and Dave Rennie, for example – however they will not be viewed as high-profile enough for the Wallabies role. The above options might seem out of reach, yet Australian rugby needs somebody to make a difference.
If Wallabies fans cannot stomach the idea of a Kiwi coaching their national team again, perhaps further reflection on recent results should be done and some pride swallowed.
Perhaps even Scott Johnson staying on as director of rugby could help soften the blow of another New Zealand appointment for the doubters.
What Rugby Australia decide to do when the selection process begins will be fascinating.