Former Australian sevens coach Michael O’Connor says coaches will be “knocking the door down” to take the team to the Rio Olympics following Geraint John’s shock resignation on Monday.
John, who had served as the Australian Rugby Union’s sevens director and the head coach of the men’s national team since O’Connor’s departure in June 2014, has quit due to personal reasons and will return to Wales at the end of the month.
It’s a setback for the Australian sevens program with less than three months before the Oceania Sevens Championship in November, a tournament which also doubles as an Olympic qualifier.
But O’Connor moved to play down concerns, saying the ARU should have no problem finding a high-quality replacement for John – assuming the team is able to book their place for Rio 2016.
“I reckon they’ll be knocking the door down,” former dual-code international O’Connor told AAP.
“Why wouldn’t you? When this appointment’s made, it’s going to be on the basis that we’re going to Rio and we’ve qualified.
“While it’s disappointing, Geraint’s done that for family reasons. I’m not concerned, put it that way.”
John has already accepted a new role as an elite coach development manager with the Welsh Rugby Union.
O’Connor won’t contemplate throwing his hat back into the ring, but believes the ARU will be spoilt for choice when it comes to naming a successor.
Australia is considered a strong medal chance and the possible involvement of several Wallabies stars, including the World Cup-bound Quade Cooper and Israel Folau, adds further appeal to an already high-profile position.
“Quade hasn’t played sevens but I’ve spoken to him about it and he’s really keen,” O’Connor said.
“It would suit him and what this side needs is an organiser, an on-field general, and Quade does that really well.
“He’s got a beautiful passing game and I think if he can get his tournaments under his belt he’d be a good addition.”
O’Connor said there were no obvious candidates to take over the Australian side, with most big-name sevens coaches already committed ahead of the Olympics.
“The good thing is they don’t have to make a decision right now. They’ve got time to really have a good informed look at what’s available, here in Australia as well as overseas, and go with the best,” he said.
Current women’s sevens coach Tim Walsh has taken over the helm of the men’s team in an interim capacity, a move endorsed by O’Connor, who said it was a “really smart” appointment.
“He’s down there, he knows the players, he’s very informed not only on players but playing style and what’s been happening with the men,” he said.
Australia failed to gain automatic Olympic qualification by finishing fifth in the Sevens World Series, and face stiff competition in the form of Samoa at the Oceania Sevens Championship for the one remaining regional qualifying position.