Stephen Larkham only needs two words to sum up his desire to return to the ACT Brumbies: passion and pride.
The club's favourite son is set for a Canberra comeback with the Brumbies board ratifying his appointment as head coach on a two-year deal for the 2023 and 2024 Super Rugby Pacific seasons.
Larkham met with club bosses via a video call from South Africa on Wednesday night to present "the blueprint for a successful Brumbies program".
Now the former Brumbies star turned mentor is poised to replace Dan McKellar, who will leave his post at the end of the 2022 season to join the Wallabies coaching staff on a full-time capacity.
Larkham is poised to return to Canberra in July, when his family will pack up their lives in Ireland for a long-awaited homecoming.
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"When you leave home, there's always that desire to get back home," Larkham told The Canberra Times.
"I'm extremely passionate and proud about who we are and who we represent. Rugby has been a huge part of my family growing up, it's been a huge part of my life.
"The Brumbies were front and centre to a lot of that. They gave me an opportunity when rugby turned professional, and I'm very passionate about everything to do with the Brumbies: the organisation, the community, Canberra, southern NSW.
"It was a good process to go through in preparing for the presentation, reflecting on my whole career, as a player and as a coach, and understanding the Brumbies environment, the international environment, and combining all of that together and coming up with what I think is the blueprint for a successful Brumbies program.
"It starts with getting the right people and making sure we're all connected. With that connection, there is an alignment to our goals and values."
Larkham looks at the Brumbies and sees a playing group already "creating a good spectacle" with "the potential to take it further".
Now he believes he can help to unlock the group's potential after his time as Brumbies head coach from 2014-17 was followed by stints with the Wallabies and Irish province Munster, where has served since 2019.
There is a sense of belief within Brumbies headquarters Larkham returns an even better coach than the one who left the club four years ago.
"When you look at Munster's season over here, we've played effectively 55 games over the past two years," Larkham said.
"The week in, week out challenge of preparing for a game is double what you would get in Super Rugby. Effectively over the past two years, we've packed in four Super Rugby seasons. You can't discount that experience.
"You're always learning as you're going through and the game is evolving. You get a better opportunity to grow, evolve and learn."
Brumbies chief executive Phil Thomson says Larkham was the standout candidate for the role.
"This is a very good appointment for the Brumbies, and we're delighted to be able to bring Stephen home to the club which he has served so well as a player and as a coach," Thomson said.
"Stephen has been integral in the Brumbies history and while it will be difficult to replace Dan, having Stephen re-join to continue on his exceptional work over these past four seasons, five at the end of 2022, is fantastic for the team and the club.
"Through the recruitment process, Stephen proved to be the strongest candidate, and his appointment gives us an opportunity to continue the progress we have made on the field, and what we can add to that in 2022.
"Making this appointment now puts us in a position where we have certainty for the players, and it is also important that we have continuity and stability for our existing staff and the organisation moving forward.
"With this process now completed, the team and organisation can now fully focus on the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season."
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