Greg Growden
Jake White next Wallabies coaching candidate
Greg Growden
October 15, 2014
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Springbok World Cup winning coach Jake White's aspirations to lead the Wallabies may come to fruition, as part of an elaborate rescue plan that also involves Michael Cheika eventually being placed in charge of the Australian team.

While the Australian Rugby Union has issued its support of beleaguered coach Ewen McKenzie, it is known that high-ranking Australian officials have been discussing several strategies to get the local game back on track.

Plan 'A' revolves around Cheika taking over from McKenzie. However, as revealed on ESPNscrum earlier this week, Cheika has serious reservations about taking over the position in the immediate future, due to his lack of faith in several ARU officials.

The man who took the Waratahs to their first Super Rugby title has little interest in working with one high-ranking ARU powerbroker.

As this conflict is widely known in rugby circles, Plan B has been discussed by leading Australian Rugby officials, revolving around White being called in to take the Wallabies to next year's World Cup. Following the tournament, Cheika would then take over.

By that time, several ARU officials will probably no longer be at the St Leonards headquarters, making Cheika far more comfortable. It would also give Cheika ample time to properly prepare for the demanding position, rather than being rushed in. It would also enable him to fulfill his contractual obligations with the NSW Waratahs.

At the moment, Cheika understandably would have reservations over being handed a 'poisoned chalice.'

The Waratahs' Michael Cheika watches his team against the Brumbies, New South Wales Waratahs v Brumbies, Super Rugby, ANZ Stadium, May 18, 2013
Michael Cheika wants little to do with the 'poison chalice' © Getty Images

White, who was with the Brumbies last year, had been convinced that he had the Wallabies job last season. That was until one prominent member of the ARU board changed his mind at the last moment and stressed that it was imperative Robbie Deans was replaced by McKenzie, rather than White.

But after the latest Wallaby turmoil, this wavering board member has told colleagues in recent days that McKenzie has suddenly lost his support. The board member is now seriously mulling over whether it is time for another Wallaby coach to be appointed. And he is not alone, as another ARU delegate made it well known before McKenzie was appointed last year that he didn't think the former Test prop was the best candidate; because of a supposed lack of knowledge about backline play. Recent events, including serious conflict within the Wallabies playing group with McKenzie, have only reinforced that opinion.

Another issue is whether the cash-strapped ARU can actually pay any coach out. ESPNscrum revealed last week of the serious threat of the Australian Rugby Union being insolvent by next year.

It is also understood that during the Wallabies recent trip to South Africa, White, who has left the Sharks in Durban, met with an ARU official. Cheika has meanwhile been in the ARU sights for some time.

Those close to the Wallabies have laughed off the ARU denying that they had recently talked to Cheika and White about taking over from McKenzie.

It hasn't been forgotten that the same ARU officials last year abruptly ended Deans' stint as national coach. Immediately following the third Test of the British and Irish Lions series, Deans was sacked by the ARU well before the end of his contract. It was later revealed that the ARU, even though publicly stressing stability, had decided some time earlier to get rid of Deans, and had several meetings with the two-replacement candidates- McKenzie and White.

As Deans' recently published biography 'Red, Black and Gold' explained: "Within 24 hours of Robbie's exit, Pulver was introducing McKenzie as his successor and admitting publicly that the incumbent was going to be terminated regardless of the outcome of the third test (of the British & Irish Lions series)."

'Pulver later indicated to the press at McKenzie's unveiling that Robbie's termination had been determined even before the Lions series began. This was followed by press revelations that the ARU had solicited not just McKenzie, but also Jake White as well, with a view of inserting one of them in Robbie's place. In White's case, an interview had been conducted in Melbourne, just a third of the way through the Lions series,' Deans's biography says.

'The populist nature of the McKenzie appointment among many of Robbie's detractors might have shielded the chief executive from any criticism over his role in the coup at the time, but it was a distasteful end.'

McKenzie's immediate future will hinge heavily on how the Wallabies perform against the All Blacks in Brisbane on Saturday night.

Jake White to lead the Wallabies to the World Cup before Cheika takes over the role © Getty Images
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