Johnson confirms offer to join Australia's new coaching staff

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The Independent Online

Scott Johnson, Wales' caretaker coach, admitted yesterday that he has been offered a job as an assistant to the new Australia coach John Connolly.

"I have met with John Connolly and I am considering an offer he has made me to join his coaching team," Johnson said. "I have not agreed a contract with the Australian Rugby Union. I have said I would love to remain in Wales if I can resolve some of my personal issues in Australia. Nothing has changed this week from the last few months."

The outgoing Welsh Rugby Union special projects manager Paul Thorburn was reported on the BBC Wales website as saying that union staff were told on Wednesday that Johnson was likely to leave in the summer.

Possible successors to Johnson with the relevant experience are thin on the ground. The best are perhaps the former Ireland and Wasps coach Warren Gatland, who is back in his native New Zealand, and Nick Mallett, a former South Africa coach.

Potential Welsh candidates include Phil Davies, Lyn Jones, David Young, Paul Turner, Kingsley Jones and Mark Evans, but all appear to lack the requisite background. The "people's favourite", the Llanelli Scarlets coach Gareth Jenkins, has said he would not accept the post under the present WRU regime.

Jenkins's club yesterday issued a strongly worded statement attacking the WRU and Johnson for forcing them to leave the scrum-half Dwayne Peel out of their Powergen Cup semi-final against Bath at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow.

In the statement the Scarlets' chief executive Stuart Gallacher said: "We are bitterly disappointed. By isolating Dwayne, the coach has put him in an impossible position and we didn't want to make things more difficult by forcing Dwayne to choose between club and country. We believe the sponsors and the broadcasters have been shabbily rewarded for their fantastic support of this new tournament by the withdrawal of one of the biggest names in world rugby."

The Scarlets' eight other Wales squad members have been cleared to play and they will also have the Ireland flanker Simon Easterby on the field.

The Wasps No 8 Lawrence Dallaglio yesterday played down the rivalry between himself and Leicester's Martin Corry for an England place. The two meet in the first Powergen semi-final, also in Cardiff.

"A lot is being made of the one-on-one battles," said Dallaglio, "and a lot of attention is being focused on myself and Martin. I am captain of Wasps, Martin is captain of Leicester. For either side to prevail, there are obviously some key one-on-one battles. Clearly, if Wasps are to win, we have to win those one-on-one battles. But ultimately, it's all about Wasps v Leicester.

"The role I am playing off the bench [for England] is one that I will just have to be a bit patient with. Obviously I would like to be in the team but you've got to earn your place."

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