Outgoing All Blacks boss Ian Foster is being floated as a potential replacement after Eddie Jones’ sensational walkout left Rugby Australia scrambling for a new Wallabies coach.
Less than a fortnight after claiming he was “100 per cent” committed to steering his youthful new-look Wallabies through to the 2027 World Cup on home soil, Jones on Sunday night conceded to AAP he was “not far away” from negotiating an exit.
The 63-year-old met with RA bosses on the weekend and agreed to his departure – just 10 months into a five-year deal – following the Wallabies’ shambolic World Cup campaign in France.
Australia failed to make the quarter-finals of the global showpiece for the first time after Jones opted for a late change of tack, dropping veteran playmaker Quade Cooper and long-time captain Michael Hooper in favour of a roll-of-the-dice youth movement.
The gamble failed spectacularly and now the fallout continues.
RA have been left to pick up the pieces of Jones’ ill-fated second stint in charge, which amounted to two unconvincing wins – over minnows Georgia and Portugal – and seven losses from nine Tests in 2023.
Taking in his previous tenure, Jones guided the Wallabies to 15 losses in his last 18 Tests.
Now RA, after controversially appointing Jones to succeed the sacked Dave Rennie, must find a replacement.
World Cup-winner Stephen Larkham and fellow former Wallabies assistant Dan McKellar are expected to be RA’s top targets.
But reports across the Tasman claim Foster could be “a potential Wallabies saviour” after ending his 11-year stint with the All Blacks – including the last four as head coach.
Despite suffering the ignominy of having his successor named months ago, Foster defied the odds to lead the least-fancied team in New Zealand’s World Cup history to the final, losing 12-11 to South Africa in Paris on Sunday.
“It’s a testament to his character and commitment. Those are values the Wallabies and its fans could use and deserve,” the New Zealand Herald said.
RA boss Hamish McLennan used a virtual captain’s pick to sign Jones and axe steady Kiwi coach Rennie, but the next appointment is certain to be made via a more rigorous process.
Jones cited what he called RA’s “no money, no strategy” as his reason for jumping ship.
Whether or not Foster would be prepared to answer an SOS call from the Wallabies is unclear but the proven winner shapes as another candidate for Australia’s under-fire governing body.
Former national forwards coach McKellar was publicly hailed as the man-in-waiting under Rennie and quit his Brumbies job to concentrate on the Wallabies.
But he walked soon after the polarising Jones took over.
The 47-year-old is currently head coach at Leicester Tigers in the UK, and while he long coveted the top job, it may not hold the same golden lure it once did.
With a preference for an Australian coach, RA may turn to current ACT Brumbies boss Larkham.
Larkham was attack coach under then-Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika at the 2015 World Cup, before an acrimonious split in 2019 when he was blamed for Australia’s run of poor results.
The champion five-eighth spent three years coaching Irish provincial side Munster before returning to the Brumbies in 2023.
Cheika has been linked to a second stint with the Wallabies after coaching Argentina to this year’s World Cup semi-finals and Australia to the 2015 decider.
Following the Pumas’ 26-23 third-place playoff loss to England, Cheika said he had “no idea” if he would continue as Argentina coach or “what the future holds”.
A left-field option for RA would be to gamble on NSW coach Darren Coleman, who helped turn the Waratahs from wooden-spooners to Super Rugby Pacific quarter-finalists in his two years in the post.