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Rugby News: RA starts Wallabies coach 'sprint', 'SBW-like move' mooted for NRL star, Gatland wants 'mark' erased

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28th December, 2023
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Rugby Australia is officially accepting expressions of interest for the head coach of the Wallabies.

In an announcement post on LinkedIn, the governing body announced that the position would headline “the most exciting era ever” for the code in Australia, headlining several upcoming events.

“Rugby in Australia is embarking upon its most exciting era ever with the tour of the British and Irish Lions in 2025, the home Rugby World Cups in 2027 & 2029, and the home Olympics in Brisbane in 2032,” the statement read.

“The role is critical in Rugby AU’s pursuit to achieve its strong ambition of the Wallabies being a consistently winning and impactful international rugby program.

“The Head Coach position will also contribute to the growth and success of the game via quality stakeholder and community engagements and involvement in Rugby Australia’s strategy development and implementation as required.”

New Zealand assistant coach Joe Schmidt before the 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between Ireland and New Zealand at the Stade de France in Paris, France. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

New Zealand assistant coach Joe Schmidt before the 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between Ireland and New Zealand at the Stade de France in Paris, France. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Several key names have already been linked to the role, including international coaches Joe Schmidt and Ian Foster, as well as homegrown talent Stephen Larkham and Dan McKellar.

Following the announcement of the new Director of High Performance, Peter Horne last week, CEO Phil Waugh admitted that time was against them to select a coach, with Wales set to arrive on Australian shores in July 2024 for a three match series.

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“Peter and I will be talking about what’s the right process and what is the appropriate selection panel and we’ll be working through that as the expressions of interest come through. Ideally we want to be having an appointment in certainly Q1 in 2024 given the Welsh are here in July,” said Waugh.

“It is a bit of a sprint. We understand that time is against us but equally it’s really important to get the process right.”

Horne has also echoed Waugh’s sentiments, being open to a foreign coach for the Wallabies.

“I think it’s more around best fit and the right person for the role so we can get the success.”

Expressions of interest are set to close on January 12th, 2024.

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Roosters star to consider switch to Japan

Roosters and Golden Boot winner Joey Manu could be set to make a jump to the 15 man code, as speculation on his future continues to grow.

Manu is off-contract with the Roosters after next season in the NRL, and previous reports had aligned a potential switch to St George Illawarra, with coach Shane Flanagan intially admitting the club is willing to spend big to get Manu in white and red.

The Roosters have also been in discussion with his management for several months, with hopes he’ll commit to a long-term deal.

However, a left-field third option has emerged for the league star, with The Daily Telegraph reporting he has shown interest in a swap to rugby union. Unfortunately for Australian rugby fans, it wouldn’t be to the likes of the Waratahs.

Rather, Manu would head overseas to play Japanese rugby, where he could reportedly earn $1.5 million per season – a number the Roosters would be unable to equal.

Joseph Manu of the Roosters attacks during the round nine NRL match between New Zealand Warriors and Sydney Roosters at Mt Smart Stadium on April 30, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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It could be a case however that Manu can have his cake and eat it too: if he is able to play one full season in Japan, he could return for the second half of the Roosters NRL in 2025, which would reap over $2 million in earnings.

Such a move, however, would be subject to an NRL review, as a mid-season return could breach salary cap conditions.

Should it go ahead, the Roosters would at least have access to their star near the business end of the season, as they look to chase their first title since 2019. It would also come as a huge loss for the Dragons, who reportedly offered a $5 million, four-year contract for Manu’s signature.

Gatland calls for radical shake up of rugby laws

Wales coach Warren Gatland has called for officiating changes at the top of his ‘Christmas wish list’, with abolishing the ‘mark’ rule in the 22 one of the highest priorities.

Writing a column in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Gatland took time to reflect on his side’s quarter final exit at the Rugby World Cup, particularly that his side loss the kicking duel against Michael Cheika’s Los Pumas side in the quarter finals.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland during the Wales Rugby World Cup 2023 squad announcement at Vale Resort, Hensol. Picture date: Monday August 21, 2023. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)

Warren Gatland. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)

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However, he also called for significant changes to rugby’s officiating in 2024, with the usages of red cards, speeding up scrums, tactical kicking and replacement management at the top of his list.

Gatland instead proposed that World Rugby should consider adopting a red card strategy implemented in Super Rugby: that once a player is carded, the team is reduced to 14 players for 20 minutes before making a replacement, and that carded player can no longer take part in the match.

“We don’t want semi-finals or finals decided by cards,” he wrote, making reference to Sam Cane’s first half send off in the 2023 Grand Final.

“Those are the moments when the world is watching our game, and it is the chance to grow the audience and you don’t want to ruin the spectacle. A 20-minute sanction is something I think most people could live with.”

Among the tactical kicking recommendations, Gatland advocated a change to the 50-22 kicking law so that teams can attempt them even if the ball is passed into their own half, and a scrapping of the 22 ‘mark’ rule, labelling it as “somewhat redundant” and “ancient” in today’s game.

“[The mark rule] slows the game down and takes some of the jeopardy out of putting high balls up into the opposition 22.”

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The reasoning behind many of these changes would be to open space, keep the game moving and increase the emphasis on attack.

His final complaints, however, were aimed at the use of replacements; especially in light of the Springboks’ much discussed ‘bomb squad’ and their decision to use a 7-1 bench.

“The game is producing incredibly powerful athletes and when you see teams like South Africa at the World Cup name a bench with seven forwards and just one back, it means that your forwards only have to play for 40 minutes,” he wrote.

“That was not what it was intended for.

“Rugby used to be about attempting to tire out a forward pack so that the space opened up in the final 20 minutes and there were more opportunities to attack. We are not seeing that at the moment because of the number of replacements and the incredible athletes we are producing.

“I think the time has come to trial a reduction in the number of replacements or even a return to when they were only for injuries.”

Western Force bolster Super W stocks

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The Western Force have received a significant endorsement in their push for a maiden Super W title in 2024, with Wallaroos Michaela Leonard and Trilleen Pomare extending their stay at the club for a further two seasons.

The Super W last year saw a much tighter competition compared to previous years, with the likes of the Brumbies and Force making significant strides forward off the back of key signings complimenting growth in local talent.

Second-rower Leonard and inside-back Pomare are significant extensions for the women in the West, bringing nearly 50 caps of Wallaroo experience between them.

Michaela Leonard of Australia celebrates during the WXV1 match between France and Australia Wallaroos at Forsyth Barr Stadium on October 28, 2023 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Michaela Leonard of Australia celebrates during the WXV1 match between France and Australia Wallaroos at Forsyth Barr Stadium on October 28, 2023 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Leonard, who is also captain of the national side, featured heavily in the Wallaroos’ historic wins in the WXV1 campaign over France and Wales.

Pomare, while missing out on those two wins still enjoyed a strong 2023 in gold, featuring in the Pacific Four series earlier this year, including coming off the bench in their recording 58-17 win over the United States.

It further bolsters an already promising preseason for the Force, following an agreement reached with Japanese side Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix.

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The agreement will see the two sides play pre-season trial games, with two already scheduled in 2024, plus a player exchange program. Front rower Natsuki Kashiwagi will be loaned to the Force for the 2024 Super W season, with a similar arrangement to be formalised in 2025.

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