Larkham leaves Wallaby post at Cheika’s request
There was always likely to be some bloodletting in the aftermath of the nadir that was the Wallabies’ 2018 season. But given that he was supposedly next in line to the throne when Michael Cheika’s reign as head coach comes to an end after this year’s World Cup, the announcement today of the enforced departure of assistant coach Stephen Larkham, to a newly created position as National High Performance Coach Advisor, is perhaps a bigger scalp than expected.
In saying that, an attack that averaged just 19pts per match last year clearly needed looking at, and Larkham’s comments in the Rugby Australia media release announcing his ‘transition’, only serve to further muddy the waters as to where the blame should lie.
“Ultimately Michael is responsible for the performance of the team,” offered Larkham. “We have differences in attacking strategy and overall game philosophy. We couldn’t agree on these key points and it is in the best interest of the team that they receive clear and consistent messages from their coaches.”
But as was clearly explained by Rugby AU, ‘a decision was made by Head Coach Michael Cheika that Larkham should no longer continue in the role of Assistant Coach of the Wallabies.’
The sacrificial lamb has been served up.
“I am obviously disappointed with this outcome as I had chosen to pursue the experience of taking the Wallabies through to the World Cup,” Larkham added. “However I am pleased to be able to continue coaching and contributing to Australian Rugby in this new role.”
Larkham assumes that role with a revamped Rugby Australia High Performance structure with immediate effect, where his focus will be on coach mentoring, coaching and skills development across the Australian Sevens program, the Junior Wallabies, State U20s Academies, and the Buildcorp Wallaroos.
“We are very pleased that Stephen has agreed to take on this role,” said Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle. “He was one of our greatest ever Wallabies and has developed a strong depth of experience during his coaching roles with the Brumbies and Qantas Wallabies.
“It was very important from Rugby Australia’s perspective to retain Stephen’s services and to ensure his experience is used to grow and develop coaches and players in our next generation. We will also look to support Stephen in his transition into another Head Coach role.”
It was also confirmed that Qantas Wallabies Head of Athletic Preparation, Haydn Masters – who was brought in by Cheika to the international set-up after a successful working partnership that oversaw the NSW Waratahs’ 2014 Super Rugby triumph – will be departing as well. Masters has resigned his post after four years.