Dave Rennie (Australia), Wayne Pivac (Wales) and Franco Smith (Italy) are among the international head coaching debutants we will see heading up national teams when the 2020 rugby year rolls into view. All three of them head into the Test arena directly from the Guinness PRO14, just as Rassie Erasmus, Joe Schmidt, Gregor Townsend and others did before them.
Rennie is of course the headline act. When Michael Cheika, who himself coached Leinster in the Guinness PRO14 when it was still the PRO 12, resigned in the aftermath of the Wallabies' defeat to England in their World Cup quarter-final, there was intense focus on who would replace him in one of the top jobs in world rugby.
Australia didn’t waste too much time in naming New Zealand-born Rennie as Cheika’s replacement and the Wallabies' second Kiwi coach. Former successful Crusaders coach and All Black assistant Robbie Deans was the first.
While Rennie spent several years coaching the New Zealand franchise, the Chiefs, in Vodacom Super Rugby, like Erasmus before him, he would have considered his stint as head coach of Glasgow Warriors as a form of finishing school for the Wallaby job.
The Guinness PRO14, as World Cup winning Springbok coach Erasmus said during the tournament, offers a diversity of opponent and conditions that you don’t get in any other provincial, regional or club competition.
A two-time Vodacom Super Rugby winner with the Chiefs, Rennie moved to Scotland at the start of the 2017/18 season. He never quite matched the success of his predecessor, Gregor Townsend, himself now an international coach with Scotland, by winning the Guinness PRO14, but then it is hard to keep Leinster away from silverware in their current form.
Glasgow did make the 2018/19 final under Rennie after displaying imperious form for most of the league phase of the season, and a record crowd for Guinness PRO14 saw Leinster pip them in the final at Celtic Park.
The year before that, Rennie’s team were beaten in the semi-final by Scarlets, who happened to be coached by someone he will lock horns with now on the international stage - Pivac.
Another New Zealander, Pivac was announced over a year ago as the successor to Warren Gatland as head coach of Wales, which is why Pivac has moved on from the Scarlets, who he famously coached to the Guinness PRO14 title in 2017.
Former Springbok player and assistant coach Smith was announced six days ago as the Italy interim coach, although he made the decision to leave the Toyota Cheetahs in mid-year he made it clear it was to take up the lead role with the Six Nations team on a more permanent basis.
Smith of course has a long history in the Guinness PRO14, first with Italian team Treviso between 2007 and 2013, and latterly as the director of rugby and head coach of the Toyota Cheetahs team he was playing for when he was first selected for the Boks under the coaching of Nick Mallett in 1997.