Stephen Larkham sacked as Wallabies assistant coach

It had to happen.

The fallout after the Wallabies dismal 2017 and even worse 2018 did not end with the appointment of Scott Johnson as the Director of Rugby for Rugby Australia, effectively in a role as Michael Cheika’s boss. From the moment Johnson was appointed the rumour mill started to grind, suggesting that both Stephen Larkham, the Wallaby attack coach, and Simon Raiwalui, the forward coach would be given the boot.

And so it is.

Stephen Larkham has been sacked as the Wallabies attack coach over “differences in attacking strategy”with head coach Michael Cheika.

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle says a successor will be appointed before this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Larkham is the first casualty of the Wallabies’ poor run of form in 2017 and a horrid 2018 that delivered just four wins from 13 Tests.

Castle said that Larkham’s differences with Cheika had been raised as part of the Wallabies 2018 season review.

 She said: “During the post-season review when they came back and obviously looked at the Wallabies performance, everyone identified that the Wallabies didn’t play well enough this year or consistently enough and therefore deliver results,”

“So when they sat down and had those conversations there was a philosophical difference between the attacking styles and ultimately they agreed that for Bernie (Larkham) to move on was the right thing to do.

“Michael consulted with Scott and explained to him what he was going to do and his rationale so he was involved in the process.”

Castle said some possible successors had already been identified but that decision wouldn’t be made until after Johnson arrived in Australia next month.

Weirdly, in a World Cup year, she insisted “There’s no rush. We have identified some people but there’s certainly no rush on that appointment and we’d like Scott to be involved in that process,”

“Other assistant coaches are still in place and that’s the coaching team with the addition of a new attack coach that Cheik believes will be the team to take them through to the World Cup.”

The news is a big change in thinking from 18 months ago, when Michael Cheika all but anointed Larkham as his Wallabies successor.

“Ultimately Michael is responsible for the performance of the team. We have differences in attacking strategy and overall game philosophy. We couldn’t agree on these key points and it is in the best interest of the team that they receive clear and consistent messages from their coaches,”Larkham said in a statement.

“I am obviously disappointed with this outcome as I had chosen to pursue the experience of taking the Wallabies through to the World Cup, however I am pleased to be able to continue coaching and contributing to Australian Rugby in this new role.”

Larkham won’t be leaving Rugby Australia despite the end of his Wallabies tenure, instead moving into a national coaching advisor role, helping Australia’s representative teams from the Wallaroos to Sevens to Junior Wallabies and state-based academies.