Wal­la­bies will be force again come 2019 warns Smith

The Rugby Paper - - News - ■ By NEALE HAR­VEY

WRIT­ING off Aus­tralia’s World Cup chances on the back of an abysmal Su­per Rugby cam­paign would be a huge mis­take for cock­sure North­ern Hemi­sphere teams to make, ac­cord­ing to for­mer Eng­land at­tack coach Brian Smith.

The Wal­la­bies have been handed a favourable World Cup draw with Wales and Ge­or­gia in their Ja­pan 2019 group, but Aus­tralian rugby is in tur­moil amid doubts over the fu­ture of the Mel­bourne Rebels and Western Force.

Stars like Rob Horne (Northamp­ton) and Luke Mo­ra­han (Bris­tol) will join the Euro­pean gravy train this sum­mer, while on the field Aussie fran­chises have been hu­mil­i­ated by teams from New Zealand and South Africa, los­ing all 17 matches to the Ki­wis up to round 11 and win­ning just three of 13 against the South Africans.

Aus­tralian woe was com­pounded by last year’s 3-0 se­ries beat­ing by Eng­land, but Smith, now rugby direc­tor at the renowned Scots Col­lege in Syd­ney, backs Wal­la­bies head coach Michael Cheika to reignite the na­tion’s for­tunes. Smith, above, told The

Rugby Pa­per: “Michael Cheika is a very ro­bust char­ac­ter and he will put to­gether a very com­pet­i­tive Wal­la­bies team.

“Don’t worry too much about what’s hap­pen­ing at pro­vin­cial level be­cause Aus­tralia have a rel­a­tively easy run of games be­fore they go into the Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

“Those Tests against Fiji, Scot­land and Italy will al­low Cheika to bed down some new com­bi­na­tions and any team he runs is go­ing to be in­cred­i­bly well pre­pared and com­pet­i­tive, so they’ll be in de­cent shape for the World Cup.”

Smith added: “Cheika in­her­ited lots of guys with long Wal­laby con­tracts but he’s now be­gin­ning to shape a team with guys he wants to keep. He’ll pay good money for those play­ers and those he feels don’t of­fer enough will move on.

“Aus­tralia prob­a­bly made a mis­take in go­ing from three to five fran­chises years ago but once the ARU sort out the Western Force fi­asco, Cheika will deal with the dead wood and a few more play­ers will be head­ing north.”

Smith be­lieves a lack of se­nior head coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at Su­per Rugby level has con­trib­uted to a string of em­bar­rass­ing re­sults.

Smith ex­plained: “It’s a cloudy pic­ture here right now. Only a few years ago the Brumbies, Waratahs and Reds all had ex­pe­ri­enced head coaches in Jake White, Michael Cheika and Ewen McKen­zie and were very com­pet­i­tive in Su­per Rugby, but at the mo­ment those ma­jor prov­inces have taken a punt on good as­sis­tant coaches in top jobs and there’s been some pain.

“Stephen Larkham (Brumbies), Daryl Gib­son (Waratahs) and Nick Stiles (Reds) hadn’t earned their stripes as head coach be­fore so you can’t ex­pect them to be per­fect from sea­son one. You have to let them grow through the pain.”

Ro­bust: Michael Cheika

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