The Eddie Jones era was short and not very sweet; now the task of finding the next Wallabies coach begins.
After a disastrous Rugby World Cup, where Australia bowed out in the group stage for the first time in their history, Rugby Australia and Jones have parted ways — much to the delight of fans.
Their last month together was riddled with headlines centred around reports Jones had a secret interview for the Japanese top job on the eve of the tournament, just eight months after signing on with the Wallabies on a five-year-deal.
In the aftermath of the World Cup fall out, Jones assured Wallabies fans he wasn’t going anywhere, only to depart a week later.
Now the quest to find the next Wallabies coach starts, with plenty of names being brought up including former Australian legends, off-contract star coaches and a possible return of familiar faces.
With the debate raging as to who takes the reins of the national side, as they enter the next World Cup cycle that includes a 2025 British and Irish Lions tour, here are the top candidates to be the next Wallabies coach.
Top candidates to be the next Wallabies coach
Currently with the Leicester Tigers, McKellar was earmarked as the likely successor to Dave Rennie originally, but Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan ultimately pivoted in the Eddie Jones direction.
His experience is perfect to pickup the reins as seamlessly as possible in this job, serving three years as an assistant coach under Rennie. He was also the Brumbies head coach for four solid years, winning the 2020 Super Rugby AU and producing a consistently competitive outfit.
This time, the vacancy of the Wallabies top job is tipped to be McKellar’s entry into the international head coaching landscape, with the experts saying he’s the favourite to land the gig.
And although McKellar is in only his first of three seasons with Leicester, he has a clause in his contract should he be offered the Wallabies coaching gig.
The other front runner to be the next Wallabies coach is Australian legend and current Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham.
After retiring from playing in 2010, Larkham has been in and around the Australian rugby setup, being the Wallabies attacking coach for four years under Michael Cheika and also Brumbies assistant for two years prior and now head coach since 2022.
However, his split from the national team in 2019 was an ugly one, with Larkham seemingly blamed for the Wallabies’ poor results, forcing him to go to Ireland to coach Munster.
The return of a familiar face could be on the cards, as Rugby Australia searches for the next Wallabies coach, with former head coach Michael Cheika available.
Cheika has been at the helm of Argentina’s surge into world rugby relevancy, helping the side to an impressive top four finish.
It’s being reported that Cheika is interested in returning, but there may be some concerns on Rugby Australia’s behalf in going down the former Wallabies coaching route once again after this whole Jones debacle.
Friend’s return to Australia couldn’t have been timed any better with the news of Jones’s departure from the Wallabies.
His coaching career spans back to 2005 with Harlequin in the English Premiership Rugby, before taking up big roles with the Brumbies, Australia 7s and Irish side Connacht.
A relatively successful stint with Connacht puts Friend on the right path to be the next Wallabies coach, considering the limited resources he had with smaller budgets compared to sides he was competing against.
He also has that much-needed international experience, albeit with the Australian 7s team.
Definitely characterised as a dark horse in the race to be the next Wallabies coach is runner-up head coach at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Ian Foster.
Foster, whose time expired at the end of the All Blacks World Cup campaign, could be enticed to jump across the ditch to enact some revenge against New Zealand. He’d follow in the footsteps of the only previous Kiwi to coach Australia, Robbie Deans.
Although he had some moments at the helm that had All Blacks fans seriously concerned, he got the oh so close when it mattered most.
So would Rugby Australia welcome in a man who has helped extend the Wallabies Bledisloe Cup torture?
Who do you think should take over as coach of Australia? Comment below.