SYDNEY (AFP) - Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle says she already has a list of targets to be the new Wallabies coach, with an announcement expected by Christmas, as she defended not axing Michael Cheika sooner.
The 52-year-old Cheika called time on his five-year tenure on Sunday (Oct 20) after Australia's dismal World Cup quarter-final exit to England, stung by sharp criticism of his tactics.
Glasgow Warriors coach Dave Rennie, a New Zealander, is considered the favourite to replace him, with the new appointee expected to be handed a four-year deal taking them beyond the 2023 World Cup.
Ireland's Joe Schmidt is also available, with England coach Eddie Jones also being suggested.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph insisted Jones, who coached the Wallabies at the 2003 World Cup, was "the only man who can revive Australian rugby".
"I understand he (Jones) is contracted through to 2021 with England," Castle told reporters when asked about the possibility of poaching the Australian.
"As I said, we've done the work on different names, different understandings. We've got a list of people and we know who we will be talking to."
She said an announcement was expected to be made by Christmas.
Cheika's departure was not unexpected. His contract expires at the end of the year and he had previously indicated he would not reapply for his job if the Wallabies failed to win the World Cup.
But in a stunning parting shot, he revealed he had "no relationship" with Castle or the governing body's chairman Cameron Clyne. The bitterness apparently stems from his powers being watered down last December after a horrific season last year, in which Australia won just four of 13 Tests.
He survived the axe but attack coach Stephen Larkham was sent packing and Scott Johnson was appointed to the new role of director of rugby, effectively making him Cheika's new boss.
"I don't think anyone would think that we have been satisfied with the results (since the last World Cup)," Castle said. "I think it has been a very challenging time."
But she defended the organisation sticking with Cheika after such a grim 2018.
"I think we did a thorough review at the end of last year and we looked at the options that we had available to us that could not just think about the Rugby World Cup, but think about the longer-term options for rugby in Australia," she said. "We made the decision in appointing Scott Johnson into that (director of rugby) role and to think about, yes, the improvements he could bring to the programme in the short term, but definitely with the long-term strategy as well."