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


In a historic move in the Australian sporting landscape, former England scrum-half Jo Yapp is set to be appointed as the Wallaroos’ next head coach.

The Roar can reveal the 44-year-old, who was previously the England under-20s coach and Worcester director of rugby, has signed a two-year deal through to the 2024 World Cup.

It’s believed the move will be announced in the coming days.

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

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

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.

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

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 and Queensland’s female State of Origin coach Tahnee Norris joining him.

Yapp’s expected 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.

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.

Rugby Australia chief-executive Phil 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.

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