Eddie Jones has quit as Wallabies coach after weeks of speculation in which he denied he was on the move. A former Wallabies coach has said that all cards are on the table as to who his potential successor could be and whether that list includes Ian Foster.
Jones arrived home earlier this month following a poor Rugby World Cup campaign in France in which the two-time champion Wallabies failed to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time in the tournament’s 36-year history.
Foster is a name that quickly springs to mind when musing about a potential replacement and former Wallabies coach John Connolly told Newstalk ZB’s D’Arcy Waldegrave he “wouldn’t rule anything out” when asked whether he thought the now-former All Blacks coach could be lining up the job.
“Obviously, the success that he’s had. I must admit I felt very sorry for him at the end, personally, but I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
Other names that have surfaced as potential candidates following Jones’ resignation are current Leicester Tigers head coach Dan McKellar, Brumbies coach and former Wallaby Stephen Larkham.
A dramatic return for either of former Wallabies coaches Dave Rennie or Michael Cheika is also a possibility, although Connolly says he thinks it unlikely Cheika would put his name forward.
“McKellar’s a chance, from the Brumbies. Steve Larkham. They’re [plus Foster] the three that jump off the page.
“I wouldn’t think Michael Cheika would come back or would be in the frame.
“Dave did a bloody good job here under tough circumstances. Although the winning percentage was only at 38 or 40 per cent they had some draws, one-point losses and a lot of injuries.”
The former Super 12 coach of the year says Rugby Australia will hit the reset button completely when they begin the appointment process.
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“It would be a blank sheet of paper and you’ll start again. There’ll be a panel that knows what they’re doing talking to the interested parties and the assistants and hopefully in the next month or two we’ll have an answer.”
While a return for Rennie would undoubtedly be a surprise, considering the manner in which he was sacked from the job just nine months out from the World Cup, Connolly told Waldegrave he was well-liked in Australia and there will no doubt be some chatter around.
“He was popular here, the players definitely liked him. Just giving him the support around him. He may be interested, it’s an open page so there’ll be a lot of speculation.”
The vacant Wallabies head coaching position presents a crossroads for Rugby Australia and Connolly says the most crucial element is that they appoint the best person for the job.
“We’ve just got to get this right. Take our time and get it right.”
Will Toogood is an online sports editor for the NZ Herald. He has previously worked for Newstalk ZB’s digital team and at Waiheke’s Gulf News, covering sport and events.
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