In what will be one of the more powerful political and cultural statements you'll see on a rugby pitch this year, Australia will wear their Indigenous jersey when they play England at Twickenham in a few weeks time.
No one needs reminding that a very proud Australian coaches England, and when The Cauliflower put the announcement to him this week, the reply was: "Great idea! Get one big enough for Glen Ella to wear!"
Fitting tribute: Eddie Jones, pictured here after England’s victory in the second Test against Australia in 2016, thinks the Indigenous jersey’s Twickenham debut is a “great idea”.Credit:David Rogers
Ella, of course, is a proud Aboriginal man who made four appearances in the Wallabies jersey and raised eyebrows – mainly Michael Cheika's – two years ago when he linked up with Jones as an attack coach with England on their three-Test clean sweep of Australia in 2016.
There's been a lot of attention on Cheika's presentation to the Rugby Australia board on Friday but the reality is the meetings have not stopped behind the scenes and the planning work for next year's World Cup continues apace.
One of the most important took place in Sydney last week. All of the Super Rugby high performance teams – we're talking coaches, assistant coaches, strength and conditioning types, the lot – met with their Wallabies equivalents and RA high performance boss Ben Whitaker to nut out a plan for next season.
The outcome? A work in progress still, but the words we've been hearing are "individualised" and "collaborative" and "robust". What we think that means is that while there might be an overall 20 per cent reduction in playing and training load for Wallabies players, how that looks will be worked out on a case-by-case basis. There will be no mandated rest periods.
Lone wolf: Brad Thorn impressed with his attitude at the recent coaching summit in Sydney.Credit:AAP
The good news is Brad Thorn turned up. The Reds coach – described in his first season in the top job as a lone wolf – didn't make the same meeting last year, but last week he was there with bells on.
We also hear one of the most vocal contributors was NSW coach Daryl Gibson, who didn't let his close relationship with the Wallabies coach get in the way of challenging the system.
Rebels coach Dave Wessels was there too, no doubt reflecting on what was one of his tougher seasons as a head coach. Wessels said all of the coaches were open to the Wallabies' ideas for next year.
"I think everybody there wants the Wallabies to win the World Cup, that’s the big picture," he said. "We also recognise that success in Super Rugby would go a long way to supporting that, and at the same time there’s a balance in knowing that Super Rugby success helps the Wallabies players grow in confidence, so the two are inter-linked."
Cheika was in a jovial mood at Leichhardt Oval yesterday but he turned serious, quickly, when asked whether he was considering a radical coach-swap in his assistants ranks.
One of the many ideas put to the Wallabies coach internally at Rugby Australia was whether defence coach Nathan Grey might swap with attack coach Stephen Larkham in an effort to get the Test team, well, you know, scoring more tries and stopping more of them too.
Yeah, nah: Cheika is not interested in a job-swap for his assistant coaches. Credit:rugby.com.au
"I don't think that would be a smart strategy at this point," Cheika said matter-of-factly. "It's about using the experiences you've had – the positive and negative experiences – to make the changes and the corrections you need to do a better job."
Our piece on the next generation of Australian No.10’s generated some solid discussion and prompted more people to get in touch with their picks. Apparently former Reds playmaker Jake McIntyre, 24, is contemplating a return home from France, where he is playing for Agen.
In the Australian Under 20s ranks, Sunnybank's Isaac Lucas and Randwick's Will Harrison impressed this year, while there are national eyes on Queensland Schoolboys Carter Gordon (Nudgee College) and Reesjan Pasitoa (Brisbane Boys College).
There are also plenty of people who don't understand why Sydney University five-eighth Stuart Dunbar doesn't have a Super Rugby contract. According to one highly qualified observer, the Riverina-raised playmaker was "immaculate" for the Students in their run to the grand final and is said to have matured after a season with Italian club Verona.
Chookas to the Aussie 7s girls who start their 2018/19 World Series campaign in Colorado on Friday. The reigning champions are missing veterans Alicia Quirk, Emma Tonegato and Emilee Cherry but the United States tournament – the newest addition to the women's circuit – will give Wallaroo Sam Treherne a chance to stake a claim for greater involvement. The 24-year-old Victorian caught Australia coach John Manenti's eye during the Bledisloe Cup double headers this year and was one of the standouts on the Aon University Sevens circuit this year.
Fancy keeping an eye on Will Skelton, Scott Fardy, Matt Toomu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and the other Aussies plying their trade with the top European clubs? Streaming venture RugbyPass is promoting season or weekly passes to the European Champions Cup. It's a pineapple for the whole whack or a fiver for the week, with a free seven-day trial built in. Not a bad way of keeping up with the home union's talent in the lead-up to a World Cup.
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