Rugby Australia will begin the hunt for a new Wallabies coach following the appointment of a director of high performance in Peter Horne, while David Nucifora will return to the governing body in an advisory role.
Horne will join RA in March after nearly 14 years working in high performance for World Rugby following roles with UK club Saracens, Samoan rugby and Equestrian Australia.
Despite Horne signing on, former Brumbies coach Nucifora will return home from his position as Ireland’s high-performance director to take on an advisory role.
Nucifora, who quit Australian rugby’s high-performance program in 2013 after failing to push through reform, will finish up with world No.2 Ireland after the Paris Olympics in August.
The appointment of the pair could help lure former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, after the Kiwi mentor worked in a World Rugby high-performance role in 2020-21.
As Ireland coach, the highly rated Schmidt worked closely with Nucifora.
Horne will be responsible for pulling together RA’s historic centralisation of Super Rugby high-performance systems, the men’s and women’s national senior programs and youth pathways.
He will be involved in the selection process for the next Wallabies head coach following the recent departure of Eddie Jones.
Horne was upbeat about the code in Australia, despite the men’s team’s failure at the recent World Cup and Super Rugby challenges.
“There are some really positive things going on in Australian rugby,” Horne said in a statement.
“Our women’s sevens team has won the first two rounds of the world series, and the men’s team showed great progress over those first two weekends – it’s obviously a huge year for them with the Olympics in July.
“The Wallaroos finished the year on a high, finishing third in World Rugby’s WXV competition … we are seeing growth in participation at the community level – especially with women and girls, which shows the extent of the opportunity in women’s rugby.
“We have an opportunity to purpose-build a new Wallabies program from scratch.
“And there is universal agreement across the Super Rugby clubs that the high-performance systems and pathways need a major overhaul to ensure everyone is pushing in the same direction; to deliver sustainable success for our Wallabies, Wallaroos and Sevens teams.”
Rugby Australia boss Phil Waugh said both Horne and Nucifora would be assets to Australian rugby.
“Peter has a great understanding of the way nations around the world have structured their high-performance programs, and he understands that it cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach,” Waugh said.
“He understands Australian rugby, and he has a keen sense for what we need to do to get everyone working towards the same goals.
“He is clearly the right person for the job – all five Super Rugby clubs agree and have expressed their support for Peter’s appointment and enthusiasm at the prospect of working with him.
“Meanwhile, David has well-regarded experience delivering a successful, aligned national high-performance rugby structure with Ireland, whose results in recent years have shown the benefits of such a system.”