STEPHEN Larkham has been positioned as the man to succeed Michael Cheika as Australia’s Test coach after signing a three-year deal with the Wallabies and confirming he’ll leave the Brumbies next season.
After recently re-signing with the ACT for one more year, Larkham locked down his longer-term future by agreeing to continue as Cheika’s assistant coach through to the 2019 World Cup.
He will leave the Brumbies after the end of the 2017 season after deciding the demands of doing both jobs simultaneously were too tough, particularly on his family.
Larkham will continue to be based in Canberra in his new Wallabies role and will continue to consult with the Brumbies where appropriate.
Larkham is seen by ARU powerbrokers — not least Cheika — as the man who will take over as Wallabies head coach when Cheika elects to move on.
Cheika, too, is contracted until the end of 2019.
And while he is not looking that far ahead, Larkham said running the Wallabies one day was a professional goal of all top coaches.
“Everyone wants to aspire to be the best in their position, and the head coach of the Wallabies is certainly the top role in Australia,” he said.
“That’s a long way down the track. I haven’t really thought about it too much. I think as a coach you have aspirations at the top.”
Larkham said he would put all his focus into the Spring Tour and then achieving success for the Brumbies in 2017, and only then would he start to think about where he was headed after the 2019 World Cup.
The decision to leave the Brumbies, he said, was tough.
“I have been with the Brumbies for 20 years or so … and it was a really difficult decision in terms of that,” he said.
“I know the Brumbies are in a good place at the moment, and the beauty of this role is I can still be based in Canberra so I will still have a strong connection with the Brumbies.
“The quality of time I have at home will be better than the one I have at the moment. Doing both jobs is very difficult in terms of time constraints.”
The Brumbies, who are also still looking for a permanent CEO, said they have already begun their search for a new coach.
Larkham’s assistant Dan McKellar, who also coaches the UC Vikings in the NRC, has been groomed for the job and is seen as a front runner.
But the Saturday Telegraph understands Matt O’Connor — who previously played and coached at the Brumbies — is also in the mix, and successful NRC coaches Simon Cron and Darren Coleman are also rising stars of the Australian rugby world.
Originally published as Larkham shapes as next in line