CONFIRMED: ‘I doubt it’ – Nucifora returns to the fold after backflip, as new head of HP locked in


Thirteen months ago former Wallaby and Brumbies coach David Nucifora all but ruled out a return to Australia in any capacity with Rugby Australia.

On Friday his return to the fold in an “advisory role” was confirmed by RA CEO Phil Waugh, alongside the appointment of Peter Horne in the role of Director of High Performance Rugby.

Outgoing Irish Rugby Football Union High Performance Director David Nucifora. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Horne will start in March but before then he’s expected to help RA decide on a replacement for the disastrous Eddie Jones.

Horne has spent 14 years with World Rugby in high performance and he will be tasked with leading leading all aspects of Australia’s HP from the Wallabies, Wallaroos and Sevens programs to the alignment of Super Rugby clubs’ high-performance programs and pathway structures.

RA said his remit will cover coaching, strength-and-conditioning, player development and will focus on setting the systems and structures that will create a successful future for Australian Rugby teams.

The appointment seems a commonsense one. The selection of the next coach will garner most headlines, but there are clearly many other important areas of concern in the Australian game.

There will be some excitement about the return of Nucifora, who told The Roar in November last year that he couldn’t see himself back in Australian rugby after nine years running high performance in ireland and helping them to the top of the world rankings.

A year before that former RA CEO Andy Marinos flew to Dublin in a bifd to bring him home to lead the move towards centralisation – or alignment to give it its flash new branding.

“It was nice of Andy to come and chat,” Nucifora said.

“I don’t get any delight in watching Australian Rugby struggle, as an ex-player. You have a fair bit of pride in Australian Rugby, it’s not great to see it struggling.

“But I had my go at it. I tried to do my best to put in place certain things that I thought would work and there were other people that had different views.

“I don’t think it’d be wise to revisit. I think that you have a go at something once, you do your best and then if it’s not good enough or it didn’t work you move on, do something else.

“What’s changed back there that I could think that, what I can offer, can change what they’re doing still?

“I’ll always love rugby. I’ll always love Australian rugby. Could I see myself working in Australia again? I doubt it.”

Wallabies Angus Bell and Robert Leota celebrate a try. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Nucifora will commence in his advisory role after he finishes his commitments to Irish Rugby following next year’s Olympics.

“David has well-regarded experience delivering a successful, aligned national high-performance Rugby structure with Ireland – whose results in recent years have shown the benefits of such a system,” said Waugh in a statement on Friday.

“We have been clear that we do not want to copy systems from around the world – rather we want to take ideas and concepts from similar structures and apply them locally.

“We know Australian Rugby is quite unique in its structure, and we need to be conscious of that as we build something more fit-for-purpose, that delivers better performing Wallabies, Wallaroos, Sevens and Super Rugby teams.”

Horne said he was honoured to be chosen.

“There are some really positive things going on in Australian rugby,” said Horne.

“Our Women’s Sevens team has won the first two rounds of the world series, and the men’s team showed great progress over those first two weekends – it’s obviously a huge year for them with the Olympics in July.

“The Wallaroos finished the year on a high, finishing third in World Rugby’s WXV competition – they have made great strides, and RA is strengthening that program with a new full-time head coach and dedicated HP manager.

“We are seeing growth in participation at the community level – especially with women and girls, which shows the extent of the opportunity in Women’s Rugby.

“We have an opportunity to purpose-build a new Wallabies program from scratch.

“And there is universal agreement cross the Super Rugby clubs that the high-performance systems and pathways need a major overhaul to ensure everyone is pushing in the same direction; to deliver sustainable success for our Wallabies, Wallaroos and Sevens teams.

“To have this sort of agreement and understanding on the path forward is exciting and I look forward to working with the Australian Rugby community.”

“Peter has a great understanding of the way nations around the world have structured their high performance programs, and he understands that it cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Waugh.

“We need to build a more aligned system that is tailored to the nuances of the game here.

“Peter understands Australian Rugby, and he has a keen sense for what we need to do to get everyone working towards the same goals.

“Combine that understanding with strong expertise of high-performance environments and he is clearly the right person for the job all five Super Rugby clubs agree; they have all expressed their support for Peter’s appointment and enthusiasm at the prospect of working with him.”

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