Johnson has a fighting chance of saving Australian rugby

New Australian rugby overlord Scott Johnson had, or has, one job: pick the right coach.

All the rest of it is fluff.

Pathways, structures, programs – it's all lovely and sounds impressive but, aside from the fact there are already 1000 people in Rugby Australia in vague high-performance roles, none of it comes close to the importance of getting the right Wallabies coach.

Big job ahead: Australia's new director of rugby Scott Johnson.

Big job ahead: Australia's new director of rugby Scott Johnson.Credit:AAP

If he gets that right, Johnson could work on RA's versions of the Penske file for the next four years and no one should bat an eyelid.


And, encouragingly, he's got a bit of form.

When you look at the professional rugby landscape in Scotland, where Johnson has come from, they have managed to grab three very different, but strong, coaches: Dave Rennie (Glasgow), Richard Cockerill (Edinburgh) and Gregor Townsend (Scotland).

Before that they lured Vern Cotter, who is seen a credible All Blacks coaching candidate, from France.

Now, there is a live debate in Scotland about how much you can attribute this to Johnson. But such is the life of a director of rugby, where putting noses out of joint is part of the job.

Success story: Dave Rennie.

Success story: Dave Rennie.Credit:EPA

However, it would take a fairly churlish individual to say that Johnson was somehow unconnected to this series of appointments that have effectively transformed Scotland rugby.

Was that recruitment of coaching talent exceptional? It would be pretty close to it.

Glasgow and Edinburgh are performing well in the Pro14 and, although Scotland have their limitations, when they play well they are a dream to watch.

We already know about ex-Chiefs boss Rennie, but the appointment of Cockerill is the fascinating one. The bulldog Englishman had been sacked from his beloved Leicester when Edinburgh took a chance on him. In some ways it seemed like an unlikely marriage, but he appears to have changed Edinburgh's culture – and toughened them up.

If you were Johnson, you would be entitled to think you left Scottish rugby in a better place than where you found it.

The knack for picking the right coach also goes to the heart of why Johnson is a better bet than David Nucifora for the Australia role.

Here, chronology is important. Nucifora took the Irish job after Joe Schmidt had been appointed as Ireland coach. In fact, Schmidt was well and truly embedded in Irish rugby as Leinster coach years before Nucifora landed in Ireland.

That's not to denigrate Nucifora's work in Ireland. Persuading all parties, gently or not, in Ireland to agree to shifting players around thRead More – Source

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