The Wallabies’ hunt for a forwards coach is over, with former Fiji international Simon Raiwalui named to take on the task through to the end of 2019.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika had kept his cards close to his chest in the hunt for a replacement for Mario Ledesma, who took the reins of the Jaguares in Super Rugby this year, with a number of international and Australian coaches in the mix, before Raiwalui’s appointment was announced on Monday.
Born in New Zealand and educated in Australia, Raiwalui played Australian schoolboys alongside former Wallabies Ben Tune and Joe Roff and club rugby with Sydney side Manly.
The lock tallied 46 Test caps for Fiji, as well as a decorated playing career in the UK and France, captaining English side Saracens.
Raiwalui joined the coaching ranks at French powerhouse Racing 92 in 2012, before switching to their Top 14 rivals Stade Français in 2014, and moving to Biarritz this season.
The 43-year-old’s resume is not dissimilar to that of his predecessor, with both spending much of their careers in Europe, and he said he hoped he could draw on his global experiences in his new role as he returns to Australia for the first time in 20 years.
— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) March 25, 2018
Raiwalui will join the Wallabies at the end of Biarritz’s season, ahead of their June Series against Ireland.
“I’m very excited to move back to Australia and the chance to work alongside Michael (Cheika), Stephen (Larkham), Mick (Byrne) and Nathan (Grey) was one that I just couldn’t pass up,” he told the Australian Rugby Union’s official website.
“I’ve learned so much about the game in the Northern Hemisphere and I think it’s been crucial for me as a forwards coach. There’s so much focus on that side of the game in Europe so I hope I can bring home some of those learnings to Australian rugby.
“The World Cup is a key target of course but I’m very keen to get back home, get to know the players and then help where I can with the Super Rugby teams before the Ireland series coming up.”
Cheika said Raiwalui’s appointment was ultimately a simple decision.
“We had a quality group of candidates for this role from Super Rugby, International Rugby as well as French and English Rugby. Australians and foreigners,” he explained.
“We had the luxury of taking our time to ensure we had a lot of detail in our selection process and the final choice of Simon was very clear for us.
“His quality of character, along with his technical detail and passion for Australia was a mix that proved a very potent argument for his selection.
“He was a very hard, tough & no-nonsense player from the Manly club, who has gained invaluable playing and coaching experiences in Europe.
“He’s ready to use all of that and more in building on the work of his predecessor to make our Wallaby forward pack one that will lay the platform for our national team’s success over the next two years.”
Photo credit: Official Australian Rugby Union website