A couple of months ago the question was asked to various rugby figures about Brad Davis.
There were whispers that Davis could be one of Eddie Jones’ next appointments, particularly when he lobbed in Sydney in late March.
The replies came: “Brad who?”
Others who had spent time in the English Premiership and knew his work replied that he was a defence coach, who also did some work on starter plays from scrums. He also did some skills work.
However, the consensus was Davis was very much a defence coach and his fellow Australian Les Kiss, London Irish’s vastly experienced head coach and a former defence mentor with Ireland, was doing wonders with the side’s attack. If there was an assistant coach to land, with World Cup experience, it was Kiss.
Yet, Davis – an Australian rugby league player who spent the past two decades in the United Kingdom and most recently with London Irish – has indeed been granted a secondment and appointed for the World Cup.
But not as Jones’ defence coach, but rather as his minster for attack.
Davis’ official appointment on Thursday morning came just days after London Irish’s rapid rise on the English Premiership standings had ultimately fallen just short, with the Exiles finishing fifth and therefore just outside the semi-finals.
His appointment is the latest – and final – piece of Jones’ coaching jigsaw puzzle.
“We believe we have a quality coaching staff to plan and prepare the team for a smash and grab campaign, winning the Bledisloe Cup and finishing winning the Rugby World Cup,” Jones said.
“It is experienced, diverse and adaptable. Ready to smash and grab.”
The question remains whether the puzzle will come together.
Davis, a defence coach is taking charge of the attack; Brett Hodgson, a former Origin fullback turned rugby league coach but has yet to be a part of a game in rugby, is overseeing the defence; Dan Palmer, whose portfolio with the Brumbies has expanded from their scrum doctor to overseeing the forwards, is the lineout operator; Pierre Henry Broncan, a former halfback turned analyst and head coach, is taking charge of the maul; David Rath, a former AFL high-performance guru is their learning consultant; and Berrick Barnes, a two-time World Cup playmaker, has been included as a kicking consultant.
Jones has spoken regularly about selection being contradictory.
It’s one of his go-to lines when it comes to team selection. That very much extends to his coaching appointments.
For the second half of his tenure with England, Jones’ coaching structure was scrutinised regularly.
It wasn’t just that there was a huge turn over, but that many were ex-league players.
After being sacked by the Rugby Football Union in December, Jones admitted he didn’t get the structure of his coaching team right as he attempted to get the team back on course in time for the World Cup.
“The big thing for me was I don’t think I got the selection of my staff right,” he told the ABC earlier in the year.
“I tended to not pick the right person at the right time and, because of that, I tended to give them more time, and then the program got slightly unbalanced and we were going into too much specialist areas and not enough in the collective area.
“I think that slowed down the development of the team because we were always going through a difficult period because we had a good team and we had to rebuild the team, and rebuilding the team at the top level is always a difficult task.”
Once again Jones has cared little for tradition.
Rather than turning to his own backyard in Australia, figures like Laurie Fisher and Tim Sampson, he has instead plucked his team from different corners of the rugby world. Eddie moved on the ‘Lord’ but he’s brought in 11 disciples.
It’s high risk – one that leaves himself open if the Wallabies don’t progress past the quarter-finals – but Jones knows what he wants and believes the edge from both the players and coaching staff will help their surge into the World Cup.
Only time will tell if the move pays off.
Time neither Jones nor Australian rugby have time up their sleeve to get it right.
2023 Wallabies Coaching Staff
Head Coach – Eddie Jones
Attack Coach – Brad Davis
Defence Coach – Brett Hodgson
Forwards Coordinator – Neal Hatley
Lineout Coach – Dan Palmer
Maul Consultant – Pierre-Henry Broncan
Kicking Consultant – Berrick Barnes
Learning Coordinator – David Rath
Strength and Conditioning Coordinator – Jon Clarke
Strength and Conditioning Coach – Nigel Ashley-Jones
Speed Consultant – John Pryor
Sport Scientist – Warrick Harrington