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Opinion

How long does the new coach deserve to start the Wallabies rebuild?

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Expert
14th November, 2019
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“We believe you’re the best candidate to be the next Wallabies coach Dave, but we only want to give you a two-year contract,” says Raelene Castle.

“You see, we locked in the last coach, Michael Cheika, to a long-term deal up until the last World Cup and we all know that was a Mount Fuji-sized disaster.”

Take yourself into this hypothetical negotiation between Rugby Australia’s CEO and Dave Rennie, their No.1 target as Cheika’s successor.

It’s entirely likely that this scenario could eventuate – or may have even already happened – given the media reports that the New Zealander was as good as over the line for the job.

Jamie Joseph and Vern Cotter are two other notable candidates, with hope seemingly dying off that Eddie Jones will cut his stay with England short to return to Australia.

But no matter who is asked during any job interview how long a contract they are seeking might come up with a similar response. That is, give me four years.

John Connolly is spot on when he says we’re way too preoccupied with the World Cup cycle. Coaches use it as leverage because they need to see a four-year plan through.

But this Wallabies situation is different.

Eight Wallabies from the World Cup squad have moved on to take up deals with clubs in Japan and Europe, leaving a massive hole to fill. David Pocock, Samu Kerevi, Will Genia, Christian Lealiifano, Rory Arnold, Bernard Foley, Sekope Kepu and Adam Coleman have all moved on – and despite some of them still being eligible for Test rugby, it’s unlikely they’ll be called up.

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James Slipper

How do the Wallabies rebuild? (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

It means a large-scale Wallabies rebuild starting in 2020.

When the Wallabies face Ireland in the first Test of next year, most won’t have vast experience at international level, and there will probably be a few fresh faces.

It will take time to mould them into a side with the confidence to take down sides like the All Blacks, Springboks, England and Ireland.

So why would Rennie, or any other candidate, be keen to sign up for only two years?

When there’s a big exodus of players – including a number of quality top-liners in key positions – then the four-year plan seems reasonable and legitimate.

RA might be eager to be circumspect with their contracts, but it’s a tough sell if you’ve been offered the job of coaching Australia, now ranked No.6 in the world, and who are missing a decent chunk of their best players.

Confidence is well down after copping a thumping from England in the World Cup quarter-finals and 2018 produced a dismal four Test wins from 13 games.

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Coaches chase job security as much as the next worker wary of a small and volatile market.

Of course, it would be a top result if RA could attract a well-credentialed coach on a two-year deal. Not only does it reduce their risk, but it would appease an Australian rugby community that demands results following the slide of the Cheika era.

Aussie rugby fans don’t want to be sold a philosophy, they want wins in whatever form they need to come in.

The new coach will get a bit of leeway, but fans will want to notice pretty early on a significant shift in style and a clear indication that the coach has the players fit and firing. It’s a tough initiation given the tenure will begin with a series against the Irish and then into an always arduous Rugby Championship.

That said, there’s enough talent in the newer Wallabies and Wallabies-in-waiting that should excite the new coach.

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Jordan Petaia, Isi Naisirani, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese and Liam Wright are itching for more Test rugby.

Isaac Lucas, Tate McDermott, Rob Valetini, Harry Hoopert, Harry Wilson, Nick Frost and Fraser McReight are top prospects ready to take the next step.

Dave Rennie might be on his way to the Wallabies

Dave Rennie. (AAP Image/SNPA, David Rowland)

RA also have the Israel Folau court case hanging over them. There’s a chance they could have to pay a large sum in compensation, so that might make RA reluctant to lock in the next coach on a long deal that opens them up to a mid-contract payout if wins are rare and public sentiment is diving.

As mentioned by Connolly, who coached the Wallabies in 25 Tests between 2006-07, probably the best solution lies with an incentive-based contract. That is, if the coach can achieve a win rate of 60 per cent or above over the first two or three years of a contract, then that activates the fourth year.

Good if you can get it. One thing is for certain: following the Folau saga, you can be sure that RA will have doubled up on due diligence by the time the contract is signed with the next Wallabies coach.