Grand Slam skipper to lead review of Wallabies’ disastrous season

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The captain of Australia’s 1984 Grand Slam-winning side, Andrew Slack, will sit on the three-person panel tasked with reviewing the Wallabies’ disastrous year, which culminated in a first-ever exit from the Rugby World Cup pool stages.

News of Slack’s appointment emerged as another former Wallabies captain, Michael Hooper, opted to not engage in a war of words with Eddie Jones following the Wallabies coach’s comments that Hooper, Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley were omitted from the Rugby World Cup squad because they were not good “role models” for the team.

Jones and Hooper will cross paths this week in Cardiff, where both will be part of the Barbarians invitational side for a clash with Wales on Sunday morning (AEDT). Whether Jones is still in charge of the Wallabies next weekend remains to be seen, with Rugby Australia and the embattled coach having opened discussions about a negotiated exit from his contract.

The Herald revealed last week Jones had, via a letter from his legal representatives, informed RA he was open to walking away from the Wallabies job, less than one year into a five-year contract. Sources with knowledge of the situation, who requested anonymity to speak freely, said RA chief executive Phil Waugh doesn’t want the saga to drag on and has spoken with Jones. RA declined to comment on the issue.

Jones’ decision-making and stewardship of the Wallabies program in 2023 will be scrutinised as part for a comprehensive review, due to commence next week, of the Australian team’s two win, seven loss season.

Slack agreed to be one of a three-person panel conducting the review, according to informed sources who requested anonymity to speak freely. Slack captained the Wallabies in 34 of his 39 Tests between 1979 and 1987, and remains the last skipper to lead Australia to a win at Eden Park, in 1986.

Andrew Slack is the last Wallabies captain to have won a Test match at Eden Park, in 1986.Credit: John Selkirk

RA did not confirm identities of the panel members ahead of an official announcement, but it is expected Slack and a second independent figure will fill two slots, while a rugby administrator will be the third. Slack was contacted for comment.

Sources with knowledge of the matter, who requested anonymity to speak freely, told this masthead a fourth panel member may be added, with Super Rugby bosses pushing RA to have a representative. The state unions have been lobbying Waugh to ensure the Wallabies review has genuine teeth and be comprehensive in scope, including an assessment not just of the coaches and players, but also the performance of the entire Wallabies program and, crucially, the decision-makers at RA who oversaw the whole thing.

The appointment of Slack, who became a respected Brisbane media figure after rugby, has been welcomed by the states, who hope the review can serve as a foundation block for the imminent centralisation of Australia’s high-performance structures. RA expect the review to be concluded by Christmas.

Hooper, Foley and Cooper were the subject of an extraordinary swipe from Jones in an interview with the Herald’s Peter FitzSimons, who asked about the reason why all three were left out of the World Cup squad.

Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones.Credit: Steven Siewert

“The situation reminded me of when Wayne Bennett let Wally Lewis go,” Jones said. “No one could quite understand why, but Wally Lewis wasn’t a great role model for the rest of the team. And for those guys, I don’t think they were the right role models for the team going forward.

“Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad guys. But you need guys – particularly when you’ve got a team like Australia has at the moment – you need guys who are obsessed with winning, obsessed with being good, and those three are past those stages.”

Asked if he had a response to Jones, Hooper said on Stan Sport’s World Cup coverage: “I’ve got no response. He’s entitled to his own opinion as are we all as we’re all fans of the game. He’s a bit more of a fan and he’s very involved in the game.

“I’ve got nothing more to say. I’m doing what I’ve always done and I’m hoping to do that next week when I play for the Barbarians and potentially sevens next year. I’m going to carry on being the best player I can be.”

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