‘That’s almost irrelevant now’: McLennan keen to move on from Eddie
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Arriving at Sydney Airport from Paris early on Wednesday morning, Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan walked into an arrivals hall filled with warm smiles and welcome-home balloons for returned travellers.
For McLennan, though, there was only a cold, hard question: do you regret hiring Eddie Jones?
“Whether Eddie was the right call or not, I think that’s that’s almost irrelevant now because the system’s broken, and we need to fix it,” he said of Jones, whose resignation he accepted on Tuesday after a disastrous World Cup campaign in France.
McLennan said he believed Jones’s successor should an Australian, although he added that he had not been in touch with former Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika, who guided Argentina to the semi-finals of this World Cup.
“I think Australian coaches tend to have a more intimate knowledge of grassroots [rugby],” McLennan said.
“If you listen to what has been said, it’s around contracting strength and conditioning, player identification, so if you’ve grown up through the system, you could argue that you might have a more intimate knowledge of that, but we want the best coach so the rugby committee is going to run that process.
Hamish McLennan arrived back in Sydney with plenty of baggage.Credit: Nine
“I can tell you, there’s no shortage of high-quality coaches that want to come and coach the Wallabies.”
When asked whether former Wallabies assistant coach Dan McKellar was the frontrunner to replace Jones, McLennan remained noncommittal.
“I don’t think you can put your bets on anyone at the moment,” McLennan said. “There’ll be some overseas coaches, there’ll be local ones and there will be ones that have been part of the system. We’ve got a completely open mind.”
But one thing McLennan was certain of was his continuing tenure in the top job. After three years at the helm, which have included this failed World Cup campaign and the early resignation of the coach he played a key role in appointing, he reaffirmed his belief that he is the right man to help lead Australian rugby forward.
Hamish McLennan is adamant he is the right man to lead Rugby Australia forward.Credit: Nine
“I love the sport and I’m not a quitter,” McLennan said. “In my business career I’ve worked with a lot of people who’ve gone through incredible hardship and I want to teach my kids and my family – people don’t give up. I’m really passionate about solving it for rugby.”
He said rugby was in a healthier position now than when he took the top job in 2020.
“I think we’re better than we were three years ago, even though the World Cup performance was terrible” he said. “We inherited a bit of a burning mess.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in rugby; we’ll get through this. It’s interesting, everyone’s talking about rugby. So a lot of a lot of the sceptics say the codes dead, and it’s not. We’ve got a World Cup coming up in 2027. Now we’ve got the [British and Irish] Lions in 2025. So we’ll bat on and we’ll solve it.”
Eddie Jones resigned as Wallabies coach less than 12 months into a five-year deal.Credit: Getty
When asked if he had anything to say to Australian rugby fans who might have lost confidence in him, McLennan replied: “Well, I think if you look at what I’ve done, I’ve come in, and I’ve given my [board] fees back to women’s and Indigenous rugby, we secured credit when we have no money in the bank, we secured the World Cups in 2027 and 2029 when we had no money in the bank, we paid the women, the Wallaroos, for the first time ever.
“I think I’ve got an intimate knowledge of all that needs to be done. So our performance of the World Cup was a setback and I’m not gilding the lily, but the truth of the matter is, we’ve got a board and a management team that know what needs to be done.”
McLennan attended the World Rugby Awards at a glittering ceremony in Paris on Sunday but said that he hadn’t spoken to any of his Japanese counterparts about Jones.
“I didn’t [speak to Japanese officials] and didn’t particularly want to go there,” McLennan said. “I know [rugby reporter for this masthead] Tom Decent certainly has views that Eddie did [an] interview, Eddie’s denied it. Eddie even said to me on the weekend that he’s got no job to go to. I think in the fullness of time, we’ll find out what went on.”
McLennan said that while he would be “disappointed” if Jones eventually returned to Japan for a second stint with the Brave Blossoms, he stood by the original decision to appoint him as Wallabies coach.
“All I’d say to the rugby public is that you’ve got to continue to make decisions and not all of them work out,” McLennan said.
“If this was a business, you would find that you don’t get a 100-per-cent success rate and I stand by the calls.
“I’d say to the rugby public again: is it just the coaches or a system?
“If you look at all of the major progressive rugby unions around the world, they’ve all centralised and we haven’t changed at the professional side for more than 30 years and I’ve been saying that for three years.”
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