Rugby Union

Joe Roff backs Stephen Larkham's decision to opt for Brumbies over Wallabies

World Cup-winning winger Joe Roff has commended ACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham for turning down an assistant coaching role with the Wallabies, while also backing the Australian Rugby Union's decision to ignore South African Jake White as a candidate.

Roff said Larkham was destined to be Wallabies coach at some stage, but said White had "undermined" his own good work at the ACT Brumbies by quitting the Canberra club to pursue international ambitions.

New Wallabies coach Michael Cheika asked Larkham to be Australia's attack coach for the European spring tour but Larkham has opted to put club before country in his first year as a stand-alone head coach to ensure the Brumbies are ready for the 2015 Super Rugby season.

"You couldn't begrudge anyone if they wanted to take up that opportunity but, to be frank, Bernie's going to coach the Wallabies at some stage in his career," Roff said of Larkham, his former Brumbies and Australian teammate.

"He's only new in the head coach role here. In many respects he's focused on creating the best program in Australia. I think it's a great decision.

"I spoke to him at great length about it and all the reasons he decided to stay are sound, and it's great for the Brumbies program."

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Roff said coaching your country was the "top of the mountain", but he added it was a job that came with a lot of baggage – as former Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie found out. Hence, Roff said timing was important for Larkham.

It is understood White, who coached the Brumbies for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, had approached the ARU via his management to sound out the Wallabies job.

White was constantly linked to international jobs during his time as Brumbies coach, the 2007 World Cup-winning coach then quitting the Brumbies when he was overlooked for the Australian job for McKenzie. The ARU quickly appointed NSW Waratahs coach Cheika as McKenzie's successor.

While Roff said White was a great international coach, he said White's ambition had tarred his reputation in Australian rugby.

"The slight pattern that we've seen in Jake's desire to coach at international level undermines the good work he did here over a couple of years," Roff said.

"I certainly think the Australian Rugby [Union] were probably right to look at Cheika and a coaching team around Cheika rather than take Jake, who is a great international coach but appears to be putting his hand up for any international role.

"We want not just someone who will take anyone but someone who really desperately wants to coach Australia."

He backed the ARU's decision to appoint Cheika and said the short time frame between McKenzie's resignation last weekend and the Wallabies' departure on Friday meant haste was needed.

Roff said Cheika faced a tough task getting the Wallabies ready for next year's World Cup with only a handful of games before it starts in September. But he felt Cheika's "hard edge" would help him put his stamp on the side.

Roff said last weekend's one-point loss to the All Blacks proved Australia had the potential to compete against the best in the world. But he urged the ARU to look at coaching resources around the globe.

"You look at [former Brumbies coach] Laurie Fisher coaching in the UK," Roff said.

"There are a whole lot of Australian world-class coaches who are coaching overseas, and that's one of the big issues for Australian rugby is how we ensure the best coaching staff are coaching the Wallabies and be very clear in everyone's mind that this is the best set-up going into a World Cup year."

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