|Phelan to step down in October|
The uncertainty over the coaching future of Santiago Phelan has been up in the air for sometime. With Argentina unable to achieve the same results under Phelan as during the Marcelo Loffreda era there have been questions asked as to the ability of Phelan as a coach and to whether or not he is the best person for the job. He achieved the minimal goal required of him at Rugby World Cup 2011 - the Quarter Finals but otherwise his curriculum as the Pumas headcoach has had far too many loses, and many which should have been wins. Indeed Argentina was unfortunate to lose against Australia on the Gold Coast and not to have won against South Africa in Mendoza.
The former CASI headcoach revealed this afternoon that he will not be continuing on as Argentine headcoach after the completion of the 2013 Rugby Championship. He will step down and be replaced by a new coach who will take over ahead of the November internationals in Europe. Whlie the debate will be certain to rage on as to who ought to take over former Welsh and All Blacks coach, Graham Henry has made it clear that he wants the coach to be a foreigner. Henry is not alone as Agustín Pichot has also pointed out that the position should go to a Super Rugby coach. Four names have been put forward as possibilities, of which two are Australians and two are New Zealanders.
Should Pichot´s comments made in April stand firm then talks will by now have begun as the UAR looks to secure the services of the next headcoach and give him sufficient time to prepare for the post 2013 Rugby Championship era. The two New Zealanders in question are both former All Blacks. One is former Italian and Japanese headcoach John Kirwan who returned to New Zealand ahead of the current Super Rugby season to replace former Samoan international as headcoach of the Blues. Kirwan won the Rugby World Cup in 1987 and subsequently played alongside Jamie Joseph for his country. Like Kirwan, Joseph´s name has been suggested. But the chances of Joseph being appointed would appear slim given the performances of his team, the Highlanders in the Super Rugby this season.
Also having been mentioned is the Australian duo of Michael Cheika and Richard Graham. Cheika would appear the strongest candidate of the four given his experience coaching a host of Pumas previously while in charge of Stade Français. The former Australian under 21 player was also in charge of Leinster from 2005-2010 with Felipe Contepomi being in the side. He never played for the Wallabies but did play for Stade Français and Castres and also had a stint in Italy both as a coach and as a player. Cheika returned to Australia to coach the New South Wales Waratahs this season while Graham is involved with the Queensland Reds after having previously coached the Western Force and also having coached Bath and Saracens in the Aviva Premiership.
Should the UAR not look to hire a foreigners the strongest options would arguably be for Los Pampas XV coach Daniel Hourcade or Montpellier assistant coach Mario Ledesma. Both have more experience than Phelan who took over despite only having coached at the amateur level. Another possibility would be for Phelan´s assistant coaches to take over but such a possibility would apear to be low given the comments made by Henry and Pichot. Whoever does replace Phelan will likely only be in charge for two years which increases the prospects of the new coach being a foreigner. Should a Super Rugby coach take over then it would most certainly be until the completion of Rugby World Cup 2015. At which time an Argentine coach could very well return to the helm with Stade Français headcoach and former Puma Gonzalo Quesada potentially taking over.
Phelan´s career highlights as Pumas coach have included home wins over England in 2009 and France in 2010 and 2012 as well as away wins over Italy in 2008 and 2010, Scotland in 2009 and at Rugby World Cup 2011 in addition to last November´s win over Wales in Cardiff. In 2013 the minimum goal should be two wins out of six matches in the Rugby Championship.