New Rugby Australia chairman Daniel Herbert says the game must resist the temptation of short term “sugar hits” if it is to be restored to its former glories.
Herbert, a Rugby World Cup winner with the Wallabies in 1999, took the RA reins on Sunday night after Hamish McLennan was ousted in dramatic fashion.
The former centre was on the RA board that green lit McLennan’s call to punt former Wallabies coach Dave Rennie in January and replace him with Eddie Jones.
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That decision proved to be disastrous as Jones bombed out at the World Cup in France and then quit just 10 months into a five year contract.
“Hindsight is 20/20, obviously,” Herbert told Wide World of Sports radio.
“It was a decision of ‘are we a chance (at the World Cup) right now, where we’re going, on a current trajectory?’ And while we got close to Ireland and France the year before… they rested a bunch of players. So we didn’t feel we were necessarily in a position, that we were going to challenge for the Cup.
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“And so on balance, the board considered the risk but decided to go that way. At the time, I’d say the market was reasonably encouraged by it… the figurehead status of the coach is important, but we can’t keep going for the sugar hit.
“You only have to look at each Wallabies coach over the last 15, 20 years. They get less successful than the one before.”
There has been no timeline set in appointing a replacement for Jones.
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Herbert wants to first nail a new head of high performance and improve the structures underpinning the Wallabies ahead of the home World Cup in 2027.
“We (the board) all decided that it was really important to achieve unity… we need to reform the game,” he said.
“We know we need to reform high performance in particular. And that’s such an important element of how we fund the community game. So we need to reform the high performance aspect and we need unity to do that in the federative model. So, the board came to a collective decision that required new leadership. And I was asked by the other board members to do that.”
Herbert was asked how he was going to galvanise the game.
“We’ve got to put in the foundations and that’s at the community level, women’s rugby and men’s. But you don’t fix the Wallabies by changing a coach, you fix the Wallabies by looking at all the inputs. And that’s all the pathways that feed into the Super Rugby clubs and then the Super Rugby clubs that feed in.
“So we’ve got to take a longer term view and not all of it has to be gold plated either. I mean, high performance is not about who spends the most.
“It’s important to have resources. But it’s actually just about getting alignment and cohesion and things like that. So that’s what we are looking to achieve.”
The Wallabies are ranked ninth in the world and the Wallaroos are fifth.
There are concerns the men will not be competitive against the British and Irish Lions in 2025.
“If everyone who’s given me some free advice since the World Cup bought a Super Rugby membership or a ticket to go to a Wallabies Test, we’d be filling out stadiums,” Herbert said.
“So I think there is a real undercurrent of support but they don’t want to pay good money to see a bad movie. They want to see their teams performing well.
“And we’re in a really challenging market because we’ve got New Zealand… England might play them once in five years. We have to play them all the time at Super Rugby level and at national level. So we’ve got to get our house in order.”
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Herbert also rejected speculation that marquee signing Joseph Suaalii and major sponsor Cadbury might jump ship amid the turmoil – or that a RA bank loan could fall over.
Herbert was reportedly not a fan of the Suaalii mega deal.
“He (Suaalii) signed a contract but we certainly aren’t making any moves in any other direction. So that’s, that’s completely up to him… I mean you’d never hold someone against their will. So that’s entirely in his court. We would honour what has been signed.”