The RA board is not expected to tackle the issue formally until Johnson has both feet under the desk. Even then the outgoing Scotland director of rugby will have a few pressing issues to deal with first, including finding an attack coach for Michael Cheika, convening the first meeting of the new Test selection panel and running the rule over the Wallabies’ pre-World Cup plans.
But there is no doubt a large portion of Johnson’s time will be spent, in conference with RA chief Raelene Castle, assembling the best team possible for the post-Cheika era. The former Waratahs and Leinster coach is contracted until the end of the year but there is little chance he will see that out, miracle or not in Yokohama on November 2.
Rennie may not have been at Twickenham to watch Sam Johnson, his centre at the Warriors, score a 75th minute try to put Scotland out to a 38-31 lead.
But plenty of the expatriate talk in England was about the Super Rugby title-winning former Chiefs coach as the hot tip to take the reigns in Australia at the end of the year, with Taylor – a former flanker from Queensland – in tow. What RA will do about the one-year extension Rennie signed with Glasgow in January will be a matter for them and his manager.
One coach who was at Twickenham was Eddie Jones, forced to watch his players open up a 31-7 half time lead then surrender it, try by try, until Johnson looked to have pulled off a watershed win for the Scots. A George Ford try and conversion sealed a 38-38 draw, with Jones left to concede his squad lacked the mental edge to put teams to the sword.
There remain pockets of entrenched opposition to a Jones return, with memories still fresh of his messy exit from the job in 2005 and by now folkloric talk of the exacting and exhausting standards he sets among his playing groups and staff.
On the flip side, which tier one Test coach, much less any Australian, has taken a team on an unbeaten run of 18 Test wins, guided them through the reflexive form dip then resurrected them to the extent that Jones did with England over the past three years? He is Australia’s world-class candidate. The RA board would be negligent to not have him in their top two.
Jones’s attack coach Scott Wisemantel was there too, having turned down RA approaches for a homecoming to remain with his longtime coaching associate.
As one of the most highly-rated Australians operating abroad, you can bet his name will feature high on Johnson’s assistants wish list.
There was also Gatland, whose 12 years in charge of Wales, three Six Nations grand slams (2008, 2012, 2019) and two stints with the British and Irish Lions (one win, one draw) have made him one of the most successful Test coaches in history.
Widely acknowledged to enjoy a cool relationship with the New Zealand Rugby powers that be, the Wallabies would have plenty to gain should Gatland decide to ply his trade in the All Blacks’ backyard.
However, the rumblings are strong that the RFU have been heavily courting the New Zealander as a potential replacement for Jones, should England’s World Cup campaign come a cropper.
Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.