RA’s new HP director ‘totally open’ to foreign coach as RA sets timeline, CEO reacts to player dismay over Eddie


Australia’s new high performance director Peter Horne wants the best man for the Wallabies coaching job regardless of their nationality and admits he’ll be “double jobbing” to get that key role locked down as soon as possible.

Horne doesn’t officially start until March but RA CEO Phil Waugh said Friday that expressions of interest from coaches would be open next week.

“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.”

New Director of High Performance, Peter Horne speaks during a Rugby Australia media opportunity at Rugby HQ on December 22, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Horne will have a remit to shape the future of the game across all Australian rugby, but the selection of a head coach is his most immediate and perhaps highest profile task.

“It’s vital that we get the right person and we need to attract the best possible candidates and then we need to create the best possible team from a coaching team, support staff and more broadly how that integrates into the broader high performance system within Rugby Australia,”said Horne, who will join from World Rugby.

“So some long nights, potentially double jobbing, but I’m up for it.”

Horne has a close relationship with one man tipped as a contender – Kiwi Joe Schmidt, who coached Ireland. David Nucifora also joined RA on Friday in an advisory capacity after nne years as Ireland’s director of high performance.

Horne was asked if he wanted an Australian coach.

“I think it’s more around best fit and the right person for the role so we can get the success,” said Horne. “I’m totally open to whether it’s an international candidate or as an Australian. As an Australian, I’d love to see Australians leading but in this situation I think where we’re at, it’s the best person for the role.”

Waugh said he was “very open minded.

“We need the best possible coach to lead the system and the culture. What I will say is that our competitive advantage in sport is being Australian and so that Australian way and that Australian culture needs to be driven through the team but that can be driven through a coach that is not from Australia.”

Michael Cheika is seemingly on the market after leaving the Argentina head coaching job.

“I’m open to anyone as long as they’re the right person, create the right team and build for success,” said Horne when asked about Cheika.

Horne’s job will go well beyond the Wallabies.

“From my perspective I think it’s more around how do we retain our talent. You know, how do we develop our talent and produce it for the future and I think we just need to look at what we’re doing around the talent pathway, those are the players that are of interest to us, how we secure and continue to keep them but it’s the next generation too,” he said.

“What are we doing about our U8s, our U20s and U23s that are coming through the system and those that we really want to keep in the system, how do we retain for the long play. It’s always disappointing to lose players. You don’t want to see them go to another code but we’ve got plenty of good players coming through the system.

New Director of High Performance Peter Horne poses for a photo during a Rugby Australia media opportunity at Rugby HQ on December 22, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

“The key thing for me really is that the vision I suppose that’s been set by Rugby Australia about bringing back successful teams for the Wallabies and all the other national teams. Home World Cup, or two of them, so with the Wallaroos coming in 29 and 27 World Cup for the men, and ultimately an Olympic Games in 32, so there’s nearly a decade of pinnacle events that are going to be in Australia.

“I think I can help and bring some expertise and knowledge that’s been brought from the global sense and apply it to the strategy that’s set by the board.

“I’ve been involved with 28 different countries. They’re all part of our High Performance Program around improving the competitiveness of the international game, and every system that each country has is slightly different. Most of them have been created into a centralised program that delivers results in a variety of different aspects, and they’re all unique in their own way, whether it’s they have few resources or a very good coaching playing pool, or they have a geography which is conducive to bringing players together.

“Every country is slightly different, and so whether it’s an Ireland, or whether it’s a Samoa, or whether it’s the US, or whether it’s Uruguay, there are little pieces of the puzzle that are very relevant to the Australian game, and I see where Rugby Australia is currently at. A lot of that information can be applied. It’s not a cut-and-paste situation.

“You have to edit the programs and the ideas and the information and apply it to the context of the country, and in Australia’s situation there’s an Australian context that needs to be considered. We’re slightly differently structured. We have a federated system, and so there’s lots of learnings that can be applied from each of those countries.

“There’s a huge piece, I think, around just the engagement with our key stakeholders, our member unions. We talk about centralisation or alignment. What are the principles? What do we want to do? What do we want to achieve? How do we engage?

“Get them really clear from the inception so that we can create that aligned structure from super, or not only just that, from community to Super to the top end of our game and to the elite sports so that we can be successful.

“The building blocks are there. It’s just a matter of bringing everyone together because everyone’s got a piece and a part to play. I’ve got a good opportunity to lead and bring people together and create that that’s going to fulfil the strategy of the board and Rugby Australia.”

Meanwhile Waugh said the post-World Cup review was still in progress, and acknowledged some disgruntlement aired since the Eddie Jones debacle from senior players such as Quade Cooper and Nic White.

“Rebuilding trust with the playing group is really important,” said Waugh. “That’s been quite evident in what I’ve seen come through the review already. So, a lot of work to do and our engagement, how we engage with players is critical.”

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