MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s top rugby brains will convene in Sydney this week to plot the end of New Zealand’s global dominance and the Wallabies’ restoration to the top of the rankings.
Since the Wallabies’ run to the 2015 World Cup final, Australian rugby has been in a funk.
None of the country’s five Super Rugby sides were able to snag a win over New Zealand opponents this season and the Wallabies gave up the Bledisloe Cup to the All Blacks for a 15th successive year with defeat in Dunedin in August.
Crowds have turned away from both Super Rugby and Wallabies games, and the Australian Rugby Union has endured a storm of criticism over its axing of Perth-based team Western Force.
With that backdrop, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and former test centre Rod Kafer have championed the formation of a National Coaching Panel to improve local standards and retain the nation’s brightest rugby minds.
Coaches will meet in Sydney for a two-day forum starting on Wednesday and receive leadership training from the Sydney University of Technology with input from the Australian Institute of Sport, the country’s peak sports academy, local media reported.
“It is borne out of the fact that we had no Super Rugby wins against the Kiwis and 15 years of Bledisloe Cup losses,” Kafer told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“People at some point have got to say ‘maybe we need to do something a little bit differently’, and I reckon we’re at that point.”
The Wallabies won the 1991 and 1999 World Cups and reached the finals in 2003 and 2015, but have been second fiddle to the All Blacks for over a decade and won only one of their past 18 matches.
Pundits have long lamented Australia’s provincial parochialism and argued the country needs to emulate New Zealand, where the provinces and Super Rugby teams are more closely aligned with the national rugby union in terms of player management and talent development.
Kafer said getting Australia’s rival coaches into the same room had been a task.
“Ben Whitaker’s done a really good job of bringing the various constituents into one room and it’s been a process of developing trust,” Kafer said of the ARU’s high performance boss.
“It’s early stages, and it needs to be proven, but there’s certainly a higher level of trust and understanding in the game.”
The forum will bring in assistant coaches, analysts and team managers to work out ways to lift performance.
“We’re trying to answer the question of what does the player of the future look like, and are we preparing for the player of the future,” Kafer added.
The Wallabies finished second in the Rugby Championship, signing off on a positive note with an emphatic away win over Argentina on Saturday.
They play the All Blacks in Brisbane on Oct. 21 in the third and final dead rubber Bledisloe Cup match.
The world champions sealed the trophy after winning their first two games of the Rugby Championship against Australia.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury