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Rugby diary: Johnson is a wanted man in Australia

Scott Johnson. Picture: SNS

Scott Johnson. Picture: SNS

  • by Iain Morrison
 

Greg Growden is a well-kent face in Australian rugby. For more years than anyone can remember, stretching way back deep into the amateur era, he covered rugby union on behalf of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Now he is retired from the paper but you can’t keep a good man down and Growden has popped up on a website with a story that the Australian Rugby Union is chasing Scott Johnson’s signature for the position of high performance director back in the coach’s home land.

“Influential ARU officials are aware that Johnson is interested in returning to Australia and, knowing his vast skills, they have discussed whether he would be the right man to replace David Nucifora,” wrote Growden who is old school and not the sort to make this stuff up. The story will have substance although just how keen Johnson is to quit Scotland is more problematic.

Whatever anyone thinks – Johnson, pictured below, splits opinion and always has done – he seems to be a man in demand. There are numerous rumours that he was approached during Scotland’s sojourn in Australia last summer by not one but two Super Rugby franchises who wanted to sign the coach, the Western Force and the Waratahs. He resisted their calls so perhaps he will resist the temptation to sign for the ARU too. Time will tell...

Journalists can occasionally write but they can’t always add. So when Ewen McKenzie stated that he was stepping down as Queensland Reds’ coaching director at the end of this Super Rugby season the scribblers in Australia had him slotting into Robbie Deans’ post as Wallaby coach before you could blink.

Various Aussie journalists have been agitating for this almost from the minute that New Zealand-born Deans wandered through immigration. Wish fulfilment lies at the heart of the claims, or 2+2=4∫.

Admittedly the scenario remains a possibility since Deans’ contract runs out at the end of the year and the Kiwi coach may need victory over the Lions to ensure its extension. Should he manage that it is difficult to see how the ARU could then hand him his jotters.

Meanwhile, across the sea, the Irish are getting excited because some Aussie journo claimed that a senior IRFU official let it slip that they were talking to McKenzie about replacing Declan Kidney who, incidentally, has yet to be informed of this or anything else. McKenzie denied it.

Not wanting to see a bandwagon go by without jumping on board, here’s my tuppence worth. McKenzie is well-known to Scott Johnson and to Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor who worked under him when the Reds won the Super Rugby title in 2011. If McKenzie doesn’t get the Wallaby post, which is what he appears to be angling for, then why not take on the Scotland job and work alongside two old amigos?

I’m not entirely sure the maths adds up exactly but as conspiracy theories go it makes more sense than most.

Tana Umaga announced last week that he has finally kissed and made up with Brian O’Driscoll after the 2005 incident when the All Blacks captain, aided by hooker Keven Mealamu, up-ended his opposite number and dislocated his shoulder in an appalling spear tackle.

Umaga has never publicly apologised for the act of thuggery that overshadowed the whole tour. The South African citing officer kept schtum, the All Blacks closed ranks behind their captain and too many UK journalists let them get away with it. Just because it was the unlovely spin doctor Alastair Campbell doing the complaining on behalf of the tourists didn’t make his message automatically wrong.

 

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