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These Wallabies are not happy campers

Spiro Zavos 3/8/07

There is a truism about coaches: they are either being sacked, or waiting to be sacked. This is the harsh reality behind the current turmoil in Camp Wallaby.

Head coach John Connolly, backs coach Scott Johnson, restarts coach Michael Foley and defence coach John Muggleton are all looking into a void as far as their futures after the Rugby World Cup are concerned.

What seems to be happening is that the coaches are positioning themselves to be part of a new Wallaby coaching group in 2008, or as head coaches somewhere else.

One problem is that there are no Super 14 head coaching jobs available in Australia now that the Queensland Reds have picked the relatively unknown Phil Mooney, a successful coach of Australia in the under-19 World Cup in 2006, as the successor to Eddie Jones.

There have been reports that Johnson, who had a successful stint as a backs coach with Wales, is being lined up for a job by one of the Welsh clubs. If the Wallabies do well in the World Cup, and if John O'Neill isn't able to snare Robbie Deans, then Johnson must be in line to take over from Connolly.

These are big "ifs", however. Talk in rugby circles in Australia is that Johnson is unhappy with Andrew Johns, the former league star, being recruited to teach the Wallabies backs new tricks. Johnson's approach to how the Wallabies should be playing (more expansively) is at variance with Connolly's preference for the kicking/field position game.

Muggleton applied for the Reds head coaching job. He was not supported by an influential ARU office-holder. It was Muggleton's angry walkout on a speech by ARU president Paul McLean that provoked the "splits in Camp Wallaby" stories. McLean praised each member of the coaching staff by name, except for Muggleton.

Muggleton has a right to be angry about this snub. In 1998 Rod Macqueen recruited Muggleton, a former league star and defence coach, to put starch into the Wallabies' defensive patterns. Muggleton delivered.

At the 1999 World Cup the Wallabies allowed only one try in the entire tournament. It's clear Muggleton believes, probably correctly, that he hasn't received the recognition he deserves.

So some of the Wallabies coaches feeling are threatened. The chief executive of the ARU is openly courting Deans to take over next year.

Rumours have resurfaced after a lacklustre Wallabies squad was selected for the World Cup campaign that there may be a clean- out of coaches before the World Cup, and there is talk about several key players not having confidence in some members of the coaching staff.

One thing we know about World Cup campaigns is that teams that have splits in the ranks won't do well. Think of the All Blacks in 1991 when the team was split into the Alex Wyllie (Canterbury) and John Hart (Auckland) factions. This does not augur well for the Wallabies' World Cup campaign.



SPIRO ZAVOS - The Dominion Post | Friday, 3 August 2007 | Comment on this article

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CoZania August 2007