Paul Cully is a Stuff sports reporter.
ANALYSIS: A week has been a long time in rugby in 2022.
At various points Ian Foster, Eddie Jones, Dave Rennie and Wayne Pivac must have felt safe, in danger, or somewhere in between.
* Warren Gatland returns as Wales coach after Wayne Pivac fired
* England parts ways with Eddie Jones, Scott Robertson looms closer to the Wallabies job
* Black Ferns v England rematch? NZ Rugby reports ‘good conversations’ in bid to host new comp in 2023
* Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark embraces shot clock idea to speed up Super Rugby
* Super Rugby Pacific partners find common ground – now can they fix their competition?
Employment decisions at test level are clearly complex and fluid, and working out who is going to coach them All BlacksWallabies in 2024 and beyond is therefore far from an exact art.
nevertheless, Stuff has dusted off the crystal ball to come up with the three coaches who could land the top jobs.
New Zealand coaches who have succeeded in Super Rugby and also have test experience are few and far between. In fact, only Jamie Joseph and Robbie Deans fit the bill. Deans seems happy in Japan, so that leaves Joseph.
The former Highlanders coach won Super Rugby in 2015 and took Japan to a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal in 2019. Covid-19 has stalled Japan’s progress since then but they went close to beating the All Blacks in October. Joseph also has an ace up his sleeve: Tony Brown. The pair have a well-established partnership and a track record of making the most of the playing group available to them.
Given that New Zealand no longer has a monopoly on the world’s best players, that could serve them well. Joseph can’t compete with Scott Robertson’s record in New Zealand – Robertson’s success at NPC level and Super Rugby is remarkable – but his trump card is his test experience.
England blew to bits under the pressure of being Rugby World Cup hosts in 2015, and while the expectations on Japan were clearly lower in 2019, Joseph and Brown delivered a side that beat Ireland and Scotland and made it to the quarterfinals. Joseph is strategic and tough – priceless qualities to have for the All Blacks job.
The chances of Robertson getting the All Blacks job could rest on him being able to present an ‘elder’-type figure as part of his coaching team. Joe Schmidt declined the opportunity to work with Robertson this year, but the fact that New Zealand Rugby felt Robertson needed Schmidt on board indicates a reticence on their behalf to take ‘Razor’ as he is.
There is, of course, a chance that another reality plays out. Should NZ Rugby have concerns about destabilizing the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup campaign – and this is a legitimate issue – they could hold off until after the tournament, as has been their practice in the past
If that happens – and the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup – Ian Foster would have a strong case to stay, alongside his current coaching team of Schmidt, Jason Ryan, Scott McLeod and Greg Feek.
Critics would argue that isn’t going to happen, but the All Blacks’ improvements around their set piece and collision work since Schmidt and Ryan joined the setup have been obvious.
NZ Rugby therefore faces a big decision on when it goes to market, with the 2019 experience showing that some top coaches prefer an early decision. And if they go early, Joseph ticks a lot of the boxes that NZ Rugby likes to be ticked.
Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan has made public his admiration for Eddie Jones – effectively pulling the rugby from under Dave Rennie’s feet.
Rennie won’t be around after the Rugby World Cup – in fact, he could be out before then if Rugby Australia think they need radical change.
Despite being sacked by England, Jones is still a box office name in Australian sport and his return to coach against the British and Irish Lions in 2025 would provide the sort of storyline that Australian rugby bosses would find hard to resist.
However, if they can’t land Jones and Robertson is available the Wallabies would surely be interested. The Sydney lifestyle could appeal to the surfer, whose extroverted personality is in some ways well suited to Australia.
But the Wallabies job looks like Jones’ to lose. The acerbic 62-year-old is not to everyone’s taste, but the stars are aligning for his return.
The England job was up for grabs before the RFU sacked Jones and appointed Steve Borthwick, but it isn’t the only gig available in the northern hemisphere.
Gregor Townsend is expected to finish up with Scotland after the Rugby World Cup and Stuff understands that Scotland have already been talking to Super Rugby coaches in New Zealand.
That brings Robertson into the equation, while Blues coach Leon MacDonald is also thought to be of interest to Scottish rugby bosses – MacDonald is off contract at the end of next year.
Super Rugby coaches in New Zealand are also in something of a holding pattern to see what happens with the All Blacks job. Previously, Robertson had assembled a team including MacDonald and Hurricanes coach Jason Holland. Would they also wait until after the Rugby World Cup, or do they listen to offers before then?
For Robertson, the Scotland job could be perfect if he misses out on the All Blacks. First, Scotland have some good players and with the right coaching they could achieve something special such as landing a Six Nations title. If Razor did that, he would leave a genuine legacy. Scott Robertson would become Scott Robertson.
Second, the Scotland job would not prevent him from then coming home for the All Blacks role. It’s different from England or Australia, where the rivalry with the All Blacks is so bitter.