White to rein in Brumbies
Jake White says Australian Super Rugby clubs must operate for the purpose of improving the Wallabies. Photo: Colleen Petch
ACT Brumbies coach Jake White is willing to put the Wallabies before Super Rugby ambitions if the ARU is prepared to make the ''tough calls'' required to lift Australia to the top of the world rankings.
The World Cup-winning mentor says the only way to ensure the Wallabies return to their best is for the Australian franchises to share the goal to improve the Test team.
With the Brumbies in their third week of pre-season training, White spoke to The Canberra Times about his desire to work with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, the Danny Buderus drama and the challenges his team faces next year.
White took over the Brumbies' coaching reins for the first time this year and led the team on a stunning rise up the ladder.
They led the Australian conference for all but two rounds and were destined for the finals until they stumbled in their last game against the Auckland Blues.
The Brumbies are refusing to settle on a surprise 2012 campaign and White says success next season is a must.
The Wallabies are in danger of tumbling down the international rankings if they lose to England on Sunday morning.
If they drop outside the top four, they could be faced with a horror draw at the 2015 World Cup.
Deans has called on the Australian Super Rugby coaches to work with him and rest Test stars during the domestic season to ensure they can perform at international level.
White is willing to make that sacrifice if Deans reciprocates.
Deans decided to take an injured David Pocock - the Brumbies' marquee recruit - on the spring tour of Europe and the star flanker suffered another injury while training this week.
''Every decision we make needs to be for the Wallabies to become the best in the world,'' White said.
''Selfishly, we all want to be king of the castle, but if you're honest you really want the union you're coaching in to be the best in the world.
''We have to find a way for the Wallabies to come first and make decisions … to make them No. 1.
''But if you're carrying an injured player on [a Wallabies tour], is that right for the Wallabies to be No. 1? They need to be true to their word.''
The Brumbies tried to recruit Newcastle Knights great Buderus as a consultant coach to help them be more aggressive in the tackle and contact areas.
It appeared a masterstroke before the NRL stepped in and refused to allow Buderus to take the job because he has a year left on his playing contract.
White remains keen to sign a consultant coach with a rugby league background to improve his players.
Former Canberra Raider Alan Tongue loomed as an option, but his role as an NRL ambassador ruled him out of contention.
White was amazed the NRL viewed his attempts to sign Buderus as an attack, not a compliment.
''To be fair, I was naive and assumed the boxes had been ticked, I was never aware the NRL would block it,'' he said.
''I can understand the sensitivities, but it wasn't my intention to harm anyone.
''I saw the glass half full, not half empty. The NRL saw it as half empty.
''It was a compliment to them, a guy like Danny could have helped us and I would have packaged it as a positive for everyone.
''It's just amazing they went the other way, but I'm still keen to get someone to help us in that area.''
White declared Pocock the biggest signing in Brumbies history with the flanker rated as the best in the world.
White believes a stint in Canberra can make the Wallabies' leader an even better player.
''Teams do two-thirds of their analysis on how to beat Pocock, that means teams will need to be 100 per cent right to beat us,'' he said.
''Part of the sell to David is that we want to make him better, we have to offer him something as well.''
Pocock injured his calf at Wallabies training and will miss the Test against England.
The Brumbies would have benefited had Pocock missed the tour to be 100 per cent fit for Super Rugby, but White doesn't hold a grudge against Deans for selecting his high-profile recruit.
''You have to pick your best side as many times as you can as a national coach,'' he said.
''Pocock is the best in the world, if you don't pick the best it cheapens the national jersey.
''The thing that concerns me is I hope it's not at the expense of an injury which will keep him out for a long time.''
The Brumbies exceeded all expectations last season to almost clinch a finals spot.
But White is determined not to rest on past performances.
Instead of being underdogs next year, the young Brumbies will be expected to rise to a new level.
''There's greater expectation, our draw is tougher because teams will take us seriously and we have to handle new pressure,'' White said.
''I'm hoping any pressure has a positive effect, I don't think there's anything wrong with pressure.
''But if we do what we did last year, we'll finish seventh or lower.
''People think you wave a wand and go from year one to year two with significant changes, we've learned how to crawl, we're starting to walk. But we can't run yet.
''We want to sprint by the fourth year, but we're not quite there yet.''
The Brumbies have retained the bulk of their squad and White believes the team is on the right ''path''.
''The squad is more talented, there's a lot more depth and I'm a lot more comfortable with the experience we've got,'' White said.
''I think to myself that we're definitely on the right path, but we'll never be where we want to be until we have achieved what we set out to do.''