Jake White 'was never promised' Wallabies job
September 27, 2013
Jake White was insulted to hear he could not coach "the Australian way" © Getty Images
Jake White's South African heritage did not influence the decision to overlook him for the role of Wallabies coach, with Australian Rugby Union (ARU) chief executive Bill Pulver saying "my view was that Australia deserved the best coach, and my view was that was Ewen McKenzie".
White quit the final two years of his contract with the Brumbies after coaching the Canberra franchise to the Super Rugby final and to victory over the British & Irish Lions. Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan said the decision to name Ewen McKenzie as Wallabies coach to replace Robbie Deans, after White believed Pulver had promised him the position after a series of meeting since February, had hurt the South African.
"And that's sort of at the heart of all this," Fagan said on ABC Radio in Canberra. "He missed out on that job and he was extremely disappointed. At the time, when it happened, he was contemplating a release. I had a long chat with him, as did others. He settled back down and recommitted to the club - including expressing that to the board just prior to his vacation [to South Africa]. Obviously back home, he said he's had a rethink and he said he doesn't feel as though he can progress in international rugby through Australian Super Rugby and the sacrifice of being away from his family who he's very close to. If that carrot's not there, he felt as though that was just too much and his heart wasn't going to be in it."
Greg Growden also reported exclusively for ESPNscrum in Ruck'n Maul on Thursday that White was prompted to quit the Brumbies after being told by an ARU heavyweight, after White had been critical of the national body and the attitude of some of their officials, that he had "now spoilt any chance he had of ever coaching the Wallabies". Ruck'n Maul also reported exclusively that White was upset that one ARU official had recently referred to him as a "Saffa" and another ARU director called him "precious".
Pulver denies White was promised the position or that he was overlooked in preference for an Australian coach even though he said after appointing McKenzie that the former Queensland Reds mentor coached an "Australian way". White is reported widely to have considered Pulver's comment insulting.
''From my perspective [Jake being South African] had very little to do with the decision,'' Pulver told Fairfax Media. ''I know there was a real feeling in Australian rugby that there was a desire to have an Australian coach. But my view was that Australia deserved the best coach and my view was that was Ewen McKenzie.''
White told journalists at the time of the decision that he had been given the green light to coach the Wallabies, with Ruck'n Maul reporting on Thursday that he was so convinced he would succeed Robbie Deans "that he had already begun discussions over who would be part of his Wallabies coaching and managerial staff". Ruck'n Maul also reported that a late change of opinion from one ARU director saw McKenzie suddenly catapulted into the position ahead of White, but Rugby Gold reported on Friday that Pulver said "talk a board member was going to resign if Ewen wasn't appointed is complete nonsense".
"Jake and Ewen were both told early on they were at the very top of a list of candidates for the job, and frankly I enjoyed the process of getting to know both of them," Pulver told Rugby Gold. "But Jake was never promised the role."
Pulver said "the vast majority of Australian rugby fans feel it is very important to have an Australian coach, and I do worry about putting coaching pathways in for developing world-class Australian coaches".
"But in this particular case, I was most concerned about having the best coach available to them. The world's best coach available to them. Ewen aligned himself very well with what I thought was important but, in the final analysis, there were two world-class coaches but he got the gig."
Pulver told Fairfax Media: ''If [the ARU's decision to appoint McKenzie] had an effect on Jake, I'm very disappointed with that. If it had an impact on his desire to leave, I'm very sorry for that outcome. But I'm not sure what else I could do about it.''
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