Stephen Larkham backs Eddie Jones to bring ‘edge’ to Australian rugby, Dave Rennie sacked, Rugby World Cup 2023

Brumbies, featured, Rugby, Rugby Union, Rugby World Cup 2023, Wallabies



Stephen Larkham says any sense of “comfort” experienced under Dave Rennie will be replaced by an “edge” under Eddie Jones, with the former World Cup-winner saying the incoming Wallabies coach will add “a bit of spice” to the group.

Rennie was axed as Wallabies coach a week ago for Jones, who coached Larkham at the Brumbies and at Test level.

The decision came after Rennie struggled to turn gallant performances into victories, with the New Zealand coach finishing with a 38 per cent winning record – the lowest of any Wallabies coach (minimum of 30 Tests).

Stephen Larkham says there was an element of “comfort” within Dave Rennie’s Wallabies. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

While Larkham said he was in favour of keeping the status quo in 2023, the Wallabies great said Jones would benefit any program he was involved with.

“I was a big advocate for trying to keep those coaches together,” Larkham told reporters on Monday.

“I certainly publicly spoke about trying to keep that crew together because they’re a very experienced coaching outfit. I had full trust that they would get things together.

“But bringing someone like Eddie in is always going to be good for a program.

“Is the timing right? It’s going to be hard for Eddie to get the changes that he wants in there in time, but it’s a longer-term deal that you can see the benefit really coming through for Australian rugby in general.”

Stephen Larkham said on Monday he was an “Eddie Jones” fan. Photo: Nick Wilson/Getty Images

Larkham won a Super Rugby title under Jones at the Brumbies in 2001 and also started under the coach in the 2003 World Cup final.

The Wallabies great said he was a “big fan of Eddie’s” and the duo had exchanged messages since Jones’s return was confirmed a week ago.

He said Jones’ return would ensure the playing group would be kept on their toes.

“It certainly adds a bit of excitement around the game,” Larkham said.

“I think from a players’ perspective there was probably a comfort level there with Dave.

“Everything’s been shaken up a little bit and everyone will be on edge, particularly [with] trial games into the first round where all the players know that Eddie’s going to be watching those games.

“It adds a bit of spice to the mix and I think it’s a good time going to the World Cup.”

Stephen Larkham against South Africa

Stephen Larkham in action during the Wallabies’ triumph over the Springboks during the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Ross Setford/Getty Images

Larkham, who went to the World Cup on Michael Cheika’s coaching ticket in 2015 and was the Wallabies’ attack coach for four years, said Jones would benefit from the sound structures established by Rennie.

“All the coaches that were there before have put a really good program in place, so I think it’ll be relatively easy for Eddie to come in and expect really good standards around the place, and expect the players to hold themselves on the training field the way they need to hold themselves,” said Larkham, who spent a week with the Wallabies during The Rugby Championship.

“It’s always a challenge because you’ve probably got some ideas that you want to bring into the mix, but I think there’s a really good base with these guys.”

Larkham has quietly gone about his business since returning to the role he gave up when he joined the Wallabies on a full-time basis following the 2017 season.

After finishing up with the Wallabies at the end of the 2018 season, Larkham joined Munster and spent three seasons at the Irish powerhouse as a senior coach before signing on as Dan McKellar’s replacement.

Last week, Larkham finally got his hands on his entire squad.

He said the return of their internationals had given the Brumbies a healthy injection of intensity and sharpness ahead of their first trial match against the Waratahs.

“I’ve been here for seven-eight months now and Thursday, last week, was the first time we had everyone together,” he said.

“So, it was a good week. It was probably our best training session that Thursday since I’ve been back. The intensity was really high, the execution was really high, and it was the Wallaby players coming back into the mix that lifted that intensity and concentration and the execution on the field.”

Stephen Larkham and Nic White talk during a Wallabies training session at Sanctuary Cove on September 01, 2022. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Larkham, speaking at the announcement of Allan Alaalatoa’s four-year extension, confirmed the tight-head prop would captain the Brumbies going forward.

But the new Brumbies coach said the Test prop would miss the trial matches and at least two regular Super Rugby matches, with up to a dozen players of national interest to spend time on the sidelines during the season in the action-packed World Cup year.

How Larkham juggles his roster throughout the season remains to be seen however, with any time spent on the sidelines also being accepted as a week off.

“I don’t want to give that away,” a coy Larkham said.

“That’s information that the opposition could probably use. We’ve worked out up until halfway through the season what our plan is going to be.”

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