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The Roar


CONFIRMED: Wallaroos name ex-England captain as new head coach in huge move ahead of World Cup

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12th December, 2023
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In a historic move in the Australian sporting landscape, former England scrum-half Jo Yapp has been appointed as the first full-time Wallaroos’ next head coach.

The Roar revealed on Monday evening the 44-year-old, who was previously the England under-20s coach and Worcester director of rugby, had signed a two-year deal through to the 2025 World Cup.

She is the first full-time Wallaroos coach and the second female Wallaroos head coach after Shelley Lingman.

The appointment was confirmed by Rugby Australia on Tuesday.

Jo Yapp is set to be appointed Wallaroos head coach. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Barbarians)

“It is a great honour to be appointed head coach of a proud Rugby nation such as Australia,” said Yapp in a statement.

“I have fond recollections of battling Australia as a player, and you cannot help but be impressed by the strides the Wallaroos have made in the past couple of years.

“For a semi-professional team to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup last year, and to then finish third in the WXV tournament this year is a huge testament to the talent in the country.


“I have seen some of that up close in recent years too, with some of the Australian players having stints in the English Premiership.

“I am looking forward to getting started, getting to know the players, and building further towards the 2025 Rugby World Cup.”

The deal comes after Jay Tregonning finished up with the national side last month after two years in charge of the side.

Jay Tregonning led the Wallaroos to consecutive wins over France and Wales to finish 2023. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Tregonning’s tenure finished on a high, with the Wallaroos claiming one of their biggest victories of all time, a 29-20 win over France in New Zealand in the WXV1 tournament.

The Wallaroos then backed it up by securing a dramatic and courageous 25-19 win over Wales.

While Tregonning was a popular figure and helped bring the squad together following Dwayne Nestor’s departure, Japp’s appointment is likely to be met with enthusiasm.


The former England captain, who appeared at three World Cups and captained the Red Roses in the 2006 campaign, was a teenager when she was plucked out of thin air to feature in the 1998 tournament.

She went on to become one of the nation’s great players and has quickly risen through the coaching ranks.

Her rapid rise continued in her most recent role when she was promoted from skills coach to director of rugby at Worcester within months.

Despite Worcester’s financial woes she took the club to sixth in the Premier 15s last season in England.

But the club’s sudden collapse in late October saw her suddenly become available and RA swooped on her.


“Everybody’s heartbroken. So many people have worked so hard,” Yapp told BBC Hereford and Worcester following the club’s collapse.

“The last 18 months have been really challenging but we really felt we’d come through that.

“We’d had a really bright start to the season and that makes it all the more difficult to take.”

New Rugby Australia high-performance manager Jaime Fernandez ran the process to lure Yapp down under.

It’s understood former Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui was one of three figures who were on the panel to choose the new head coach, with RA high-performance coach Matthew Wilkie, former Wallaroos back-rower Alisha Hewett and Queensland’s female State of Origin coach Tahnee Norris joining him.

Yapp’s appointment comes at an appointment time for RA, with the women’s XVs program well behind their rugby sevens colleagues.

Jo Yapp (l) on the coaching field before the Six Nations championship match between Wales and England at St Helens RFC on February 8, 2015 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)


With the spotlight being shined on women’s sport in Australia, the Wallaroos finally got semi-professional contracts earlier in the year.

But those contracts expire at year’s end and following a tough year on and off the field, which includes the Wallaroos calling for greater equality, it’s not yet known what RA’s next move will be.

For now, the governing body desperately trying to play catch up to their rival playing nations England, France and New Zealand ahead of the 2025 World Cup, particularly given they will host the tournament in 2029.

On Tuesday, RA chief executive Phil Waugh hailed Yapp’s appointment.

“This appointment is a crucial one as we work towards our goal of continuing to grow Women’s Rugby in Australia,” said Waugh. “It is a huge opportunity for our game as we continue to grow sustainably as investment increases in the coming years.

“We now have our first ever full-time coach of the Wallaroos, we have hired our first Women’s High-Performance Manager, and we are seeing continual year-on-year growth in participation of women and girls in the community.


“England is obviously at the top of the heap in the world of Women’s Rugby at the moment, with a fully professional women’s system that is the envy of most other Rugby-playing nations.

“Jo has been heavily involved in this system – in the early days as a player, and then as a coach and Director of Rugby as the English system developed into that powerhouse.

“We have been impressed by Jo’s thinking on the game, her attention to detail, and her plans to build a strong high-performance culture – which she has experience doing; many of the players she coached in the England U20s are now the players that are so influential in the senior team.

“Jo is a highly sought-after coach, and I am confident that she is the right person to lead the development of the Wallaroos program as we look towards the next World Cup in England in 2025.”

Yapp’s appointment is set to be the first of a number over the coming weeks, with RA closing in on securing their director of high performance.

It’s believed Peter Horne has edged out Billy Millard for the role, which could pave the way for RA to headhunt Joe Schmidt for the vacant Wallabies role.

Waugh told reporters on Monday afternoon he was looking forward to putting 2023 behind him, including the Eddie Jones disaster with the Wallabies.


“We’re moving forward with hopefully announcing the new head coach of the Wallaroos this week, new director of high-performance and then in the market for a new head coach of the Wallabies,” Waugh said.

Waugh was speaking following a meeting with New Zealand Rugby counterpart Mark Robinson and Super Rugby Pacific interim Chair Kevin Molloy as the leaders discussed ways of trying to “reignite the flame” of the competition.