Super Rugby
Pick'n Go: Larkham's Cup learnings from Cheika major Brumbies boost
Sam Bruce
February 28, 2016
Brumbies humble Hurricanes (Australia only)

By his own admission, Stephen Larkham was exhausted at the end of 2015.

A Super Rugby campaign that ended in a semi-final thrashing, a quick transition to the Test arena and a Wallabies ride he described as "unbelievable" delivered an emotional 12 months. But he was back at work with the Brumbies just two weeks after the Rugby World Cup had finished, trying to lay the early foundations of a title-contending team.

"It was quite difficult, it was quite an immense year last year," Larkham told ESPN recently.

"I think Super Rugby, getting to the semi-finals and then missing out there, was quite emotional. I was just saying before, we had an unbelievable tour with the Wallabies; Rugby Championship, a camp in America and a game in Chicago, and then the World Cup, and we won 10 out of 12 games last year.

"It was a great group of coaches; I learnt a lot from 'Cheik' ([Michael Cheika] and 'Greysie' [Nathan Grey] and Mario [Ledesma', and all the other support staff there."

Australia assistant coach Stephen Larkham faces the press
Australia assistant coach Stephen Larkham faces the press© Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Rewind 12 months and Larkham had to be convinced to join Cheika's staff. He'd turned down the opportunity to tour Europe with the Wallabies at the end of 2014, citing his Brumbies responsibilities; but having negotiated the 2015 pre-season, he agreed to be part of the World Cup campaign.

Had Larkham decided against a Wallabies role, he would likely have been feeling a whole lot fresher than he did in mid-November when returning to work in Canberra.

The pre-season planning would likely have been a little more detailed, the player profiles a little more in depth.

But it would have come at a cost, too.

Anyone who caught a glimpse of The Code, a behind-the-scenes documentary that followed the Brumbies' pre-season would have seen a side of Larkham many thought the softly-spoken Wallabies great might not have had.

"This is the hard stuff, this is the stuff we've got to enjoy," Larkham barked during the third-quarter break of their trial against the Waratahs. "The hard work. This is why we play rugby."

It was a revealing insight into the Brumbies boss; a trait that despite its confident delivery is a relatively new addition to Larkham's coaching arsenal.

"An understanding of how to motivate players and the team as a whole ... Cheik's a very good motivator," he told ESPN of his World Cup learnings.

"[I developed an] understanding how to get players up on a weekly basis, and probably an opportunity how to look at attack in a little bit more detail as well."

On Friday night in Canberra, the Brumbies laid down the most impressive of early-season markers in a 52-10 hammering of last year's runners-up, the Hurricanes.

© Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The two-time champions blew the Canes off the paddock in every facet of the game, while the joy on the players' faces, particularly following a wonderfully worked set-piece try and another scored by Argentine recruit, Tomas Cubelli, was obvious.

One week into the regular season, the Brumbies certainly won't be going the early crow.

Having been to the finals in three straight seasons, they recognise the marathon that Super Rugby really is; Larkham showed as much in The Code, when reflecting on that narrow trial loss to the Waratahs and the little margins that make the difference when the final ladder is decided.

But there is little doubt the 2016 Brumbies are a motivated rugby side, an outfit intent on delivering on the expectations their fans, the wider Super Rugby supporter base and, more importantly, they themselves, have.

And while Larkham's energy stocks may well hover in the red zone for much of the season following an exhausting 2015, he too will be able to draw on those motivational learnings of the World Cup.

And rest is overrated anyway, right?

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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