The 59-year-old, who was with the SRU as a coach between 2012 and 2014 before moving upstairs for five years until 2019, is currently the director of rugby in his homeland, but under pressure to make swingeing cost cuts, Johnson’s position is under serious threat.
Reports in Australia suggest that RA will move to a more centralised structure, with Fox Sports claiming that governing body considers itself “top-heavy” and that “nothing is off the table” as drastic alterations are considered by the cast-strapped union.
It is another sideshow for the Wallabies to deal with ahead of Sunday’s Autumn Nations Series match against Scotland at BT Murrayfield after three of their key players – Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon – decided not to be involved in the tour of Britain despite answering an SOS call to play in four of Australia’s Rugby Championship matches, winning all of them.
Johnson’s part in marginalising the agents of the trio appeared to backfire when they decided to pick their Japanese clubs over country. Cooper, Kerevi and McMahon are not obliged to play for Australia as their contracts are not held by RA and as the director of rugby, Johnson has come under the microscope for the part he has played in the saga.
Secured for six-figure fee from the SRU in early 2019, Johnson’s contract with RA expires at the end of the year and it is highly unlikely he will be retained.
Australia head coach Dave Rennie can no doubt do without the sideshow ahead of three back-to-back matches against Scotland, England and Wales, with RA chairman Hamish McLennan trying to diffuse the situation with Cooper, Kerevi and McMahon.
“It’s unfortunate, but I think in matters like this the truth is always somewhere in between,” McLennan told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I wholeheartedly believe that all parties want to do the right thing.
“Let’s not forget that Quade and Samu were in the Wallabies wilderness until they made a miraculous comeback during The Rugby Championship.
“It’s unreasonable to expect they would make a 180-degree turnaround from their existing commitments.
“Dave (Rennie) had the vision and guts to give them a break, which has paid off handsomely, and instead of saying who said what to whom, I think we should all be delighted with the progress the team has made.
I want to thank Samu, Quade and Sean for their efforts, and we will all learn from this. They haven’t burnt bridges with me.
“RA, the high-performance team, the agents and players all need more engagement.
“The agents are part of the rugby ecosystem, like a lot of industries, and we have to get better with working with them.
“Given the choice of playing for a Japanese club or for Australia at Twickenham, I’m in no doubt of what their preference would be.
“Let’s not lose sight of the great work Dave has delivered and the expectation he works under. There are now spots available for other young guys to claim.”