The World Cup year is almost over and all is well in the Rugby universe.
Premiership and Top 14 Rugby is well under way and so is the European Champions Cup, and while the Southern hemisphere takes a little break for summer, Super Rugby seems just around the corner and then before you know, it will already be time for the July internationals.
As to be expected, many top players have made their professional moves with Eben Etzebeth making a glamorous move to Top 14 club Toulon and All Blacks captain Kieran Read moving to Japanese team Toyota Verblitz.
But player’s moving about may not be the only thing Rugby fans are keeping a look out for on their radar. Steve Hansen has left his position as All Blacks coach and will join Read at Toyota Verblitz leaving the top job at NZ Rugby vacant, with no definitive replacement yet named at the time of this article’s writing. Michael Cheika also confirmed his departure from the Wallabies not long after their exit from RWC Japan. So where are all the coaches going?
Kiwi Jamie Joseph who so masterfully guided Japan to their first ever quarter final at the RWC has confirmed that he is staying on as the Brave Blossom’s coach until their next World Cup in 2023. Assistant coach Tony Brown will also stay with Joseph as the pair continue to build and improve on their already successful vocation in Japan.
Michael Cheika has been linked to a move to French club Montpellier as Director of Rugby, which to observers makes perfect sense as he has played in France, speaks French and is married to wife Stephanie who is herself, French. If he does so he will replace New Zealander Vern Cotter but as yet, nothing is set in stone and everyone will keep a keen eye on what Cheika will do next in his coaching career.
Cheika’s replacement at the helm of the Wallabies will be Kiwi Dave Rennie who has beaten out contenders Dan McKellar and Scott Wisemantel, with the latter now possibly joining Rennie as assistant coach when he finally takes the spot in July 2020.
Wisemantel was Eddie Jones’ attacking coach and as Jones has been retained as England’s coach, he now needs to fill that gap to partner with Kiwi John Mitchell who stays as defense coach.
On the other side of the world, Fijian fans have been critical of Head Coach John McKee who failed to take their side to the quarter finals at RWC and although the Flying Fijians made amends with a win over the Barbarians, it remains to be seen if McKee will get an extension on his contract after it ends in December 2019. Leicester assistant attack coach Mike Ford has been rumoured to take over McKee’s job.
For France, Jacques Brunel will step down as coach with Fabien Galthie to take over the reign and Joe Schmidt makes way for Andy Farrell at Ireland. Galthie will have a pool of young, eager players to work with over the next few years including superstar Romain Ntamack. Schmidt exits his job in an aura of harsh criticism over his team’s performance at RWC but it has to be remembered that just a little over a year ago, he had lead Ireland to clinch a Six-Nations Grand Slam and had also beaten the All Blacks in Dublin. Schmidt has since announced his coaching retirement.
Warren Gatland has ended his 12-year stint as Wales coach and now returns to the Waikato Chiefs but the big coaching question is ultimately who will the NZRU Panel choose to take over Steve Hansen’s job. After rumours of Jamie Joseph and Dave Rennie in contention for the job had finally been put to rest, it seems that it is now a two-horse race between assistant coach Ian “Fozzie” Foster and Crusaders’ coach Scott “Razor” Robertson. If the panel chooses Fozzie, it will emphasise continuity as he has been AB assistant coach for eight years prior. Razor, on the other hand, is a new generation coach and just can’t seem to stop winning. The Crusader’s three-peat victory earlier this year is proof in the pudding.
With the announcement of the new All Blacks coach scheduled for before the end of the year, it remains to be seen if AB’s fans will like their Christmas present or not.