Australian rugby news 2021 Scott Johnson departure sevens teams swap coaches

By Sam Worthington with AP

The coaches of the Australian men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams have switched roles and the code’s director of rugby will leave his job when his contract expires at the end of this month.

Rugby Australia on Friday said Tim Walsh will return to his former position overseeing the Australian women’s sevens team, which he led to gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

John Manenti will move from the women’s team to the men’s program.

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Director of rugby Scott Johnson, who was hired three years ago to oversee the Wallabies program, will leave his role.

Rugby Australia said it intends to bring in a high performance director who will work as a liaison between Super Rugby clubs and the sport’s national body.

Johnson, who famously wore camouflage gear to a Wallabies media session to mock the “paranoid” All Blacks, had also served as a Test selector and was integral in luring coach Dave Rennie to Australia.

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“He stepped into his role at a difficult time within Australian rugby and has played an important role at an important time for the game in Australia and leaves Australian rugby in a better place,” RA chief executive Andy Marinos said.

Johnson was also quoted in the press release.

“I want to thank Andy, Dave and the team at RA, as well as each of the Australian Super Rugby sides, for their spirit of cooperation over the last three years. I am confident that everyone is on the same page to drive forward into this new era to enable future success,” Johnson said.

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Meanwhile, the sevens coaching swap came after both Olympic teams fell short of expectations at the Tokyo Games.

The women’s team’s defence of its Rio Games gold ended with a quarterfinal loss to Fiji, the eventual bronze medalist.

The men also lost to the champion Fijians in the quarterfinals.

An RA review decided both coaches were better suited to the other’s program, with the pair under contract until the end of 2024.

That means they’ll likely take their respective teams to the Paris Olympics that year.

“After careful consideration, we felt they were the best two coaches to lead the respective programs forward into the future,” Marinos said.

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Walsh has spent the past three years with the men after his women’s team won silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, when Manenti took over the role.

“We’re fortunate that both coaches have worked within the programs and are known to the playing group and staff, so we expect it will be a smooth transition as they shift roles to their new teams given the HSBC World Series is well underway,” Marinos said.

“Both Tim and John have a wealth of experience and IP in the world of sevens… they both have a lot to offer.”

The men’s sevens program plans to share resources more heavily with the Super Rugby teams.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to return to coaching the men. It’s a great challenge to not only build a successful and winning team, but also be a critical step in the development of Super Rugby players and ultimately Wallabies,” Manenti said.

“With the Commonwealth Games and World Cup on the calendar, along with the World Series, there are plenty of opportunities to showcase the team’s talent. I’m also looking forward to aligning with Super coaches to have mutually beneficial outcomes around player availability.”

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