Michael Cheika’s final wish for Australian rugby has fallen on deaf ears, with New Zealander Dave Rennie set to be announced Wallabies coach today.
Foxsports.com.au understands the Glasgow Warriors coach, who is in his third and final season in charge of the Scottish club, has accepted a four-year deal to take the Wallabies to the 2023 World Cup in France.
The expected appointment comes after months of speculation that the 55-year-old was poised to take the job and follow Rugby Australia’s newly appointed Director of Rugby, Scott Johnson, down under.
Johnson – the former DOR of Scottish Rugby – played an influential role in bringing Rennie to Scotland in 2017, before accepting a job offer to carry out a similar role with Rugby Australia last December.
Rugby Australia has yet to comment on the story.
Earlier this month, Rennie confirmed our report that New Zealand Rugby had sounded out the two-time Super Rugby with the Chiefs about applying for the vacant All Blacks job.
But with All Blacks assistant Ian Foster and three-time Super Rugby-winning Crusaders coach Scott Robertson the clear front-runners for the New Zealand job, Rennie was unlikely to be given the role with his home country.
Rennie is the second foreigner to coach the Wallabies, following in the footsteps of compatriot Robbie Deans who held the role from 2008-2013.
Under Deans, the Wallabies regularly held the No.2 position on the World Rugby standings, but Australia’s third-place finish in 2011, 2-1 defeat to the British and Irish Lions in 2013 and inability to win the Bledisloe Cup from five attempts saw him sacked in July, 2013.
Rennie isn’t expected to arrive in Australia until the end of the PRO14 season, with the final to be held on June 20 in Cardiff.
The respected New Zealand coach won’t have long to get his feet under the table, with the Wallabies to play Ireland in Brisbane on July 4.
His first series in charge will be an important one to restore faith in the Australian community after two years of appealing results under a Cheika.
Cheika’s Wallabies suffered their worst season in 2018 since 1958, winning just four of 13 Tests.
Their quarter-final exit at the Japan World Cup was enough for Cheika to not seek reappointment for the Wallabies head coaching role.
On arrival home in Sydney last month, Cheika said his preference was for an Australian to take over.
‘‘I think definitely we should be pushing for an Australian coach,’’ Cheika said. ‘‘It’s not up to me but I think we should be backing and supporting Australian coaches wherever possible.’’
But without a clear and obvious standout Australian candidate, Rennie was always likely to be Rugby Australia’s first pick and so it has proved to be the case.
Rennie led the Chiefs to two Super Rugby titles in his first two seasons in charge in 2012 and 2013.
The Chiefs never missed the finals under Rennie.
In his second season in charge of the Warriors in Scotland, Rennie took them to a final this year where they were pipped by European powerhouse Leinster 18-15.
Former All Blacks lock Ross Filipo told colleague Sam Worthington that Rennie would be a good fit for Australian rugby.
“He played for Wellington, a handy midfielder back in his day with really silky skills,” Filipo told foxsports.com.au.
“That has transferred into his coaching in terms of what he tries to grow in his players — whether it be technical skills, vision, decision making — he’s a class act in that area.
“The teams he coaches have really amazing skillsets and keep the ball alive.
“Those types of skills are always on display in teams he coaches — a very positive type of rugby.
“And that’s probably a fit for Australian rugby.
“When I look back at the times I got to play Australia and in Super Rugby for a number of years, my memories are very much ruck and run with really high skillsets.
“Run, catch, pass, kicking, offloading — all those types of things were a real feature of Australian rugby for a number of years.
“So that side of things seems like a match.”
Two-time World Cup-winner Sonny Bill Williams recently credited Rennie in a farewell speech posted on social media.