Brumbies recruit Jarrad Butler ready to take on his old club, the Reds
Wallabies great Joe Roff believes former teammate Stephen Larkham is a future Australian coach if the rookie Super Rugby mentor can survive the early cut-throat nature of the job.
Roff also labelled the Brumbies’ back line as the equal of any in the club’s rich history, with the potential to become the best.
Larkham will make his debut as a Super Rugby head coach when the Brumbies host the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
The 39-year-old was always being groomed for the role, but was thrust into the position earlier than expected, given Jake White’s sudden resignation two years into a four-year deal.
Roff said Larkham would be under immediate pressure to reproduce last year’s results, when the Brumbies made the Super Rugby final, but he backed his former teammate to thrive under the new coaching structure at the club.
Roff said the dual coaching structure, with Laurie Fisher as director of rugby, would provide Larkham the support to progress in his own career.
”He’s a Wallaby coach,” Roff predicted of Larkham.
”He knows the game so well, he knows high performance, he knows what it takes to be the very best. He’s a Wallabies coach-in-waiting if he gets the development he deserves.
”There’s only two types of coaches: those that have been sacked and those that are about to be sacked. It’s a really insecure job and if you go in too early without the resilience, support and all the elements that create a great coach, then you can get burnt very quickly. I think Steve’s got that around him at the moment.”
Roff and Larkham were instrumental players in the star-studded Brumbies back lines that won Super Rugby championships in 2001 and 2004.
Brumbies players dominated the Australian back line at the time, including George Gregan, Stirling Mortlock, Matt Giteau, Clyde Rathbone and Mark Gerrard. Roff rates the current back line as just as good.
Even with Wallabies playmaker Christian Lealiifano sidelined by injury, the Brumbies have the luxury of Australian centre Tevita Kuridrani on the bench for the season opener against the Reds.
Centre Andrew Smith and winger Henry Speight will be the only players in the back line not to have represented Australia, although Roff declared Speight a future Wallabies representative as soon as he becomes eligible this year.
Roff said the rapid rise of Brumbies players to Wallabies stars resembled the glory years of the early 2000s.
”At the time we became Wallabies, we were still young rough country kids and no one had given anyone from the ACT a chance to become a Wallaby,” Roff, a veteran of 86 caps for Australia, said.
”It was never a coincidence that George Gregan and Steve Larkham were the best nine and 10 in the world, they worked off each other and they worked together to become that. In isolation, a single player within that back line wouldn’t succeed and become a world-class player unless he had other world-class players around him, and that’s what’s exciting for me, they’re there now, there’s a back line of them.”
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