The man who masterminded Fiji’s historic triumph over the Wallabies at the 2023 Rugby World Cup has been recruited to help rebuild the Waratahs and take the battered team back to the pointy end of Super Rugby.

Simon Raiwalui, a former Wallabies assistant coach who steered Fiji as head coach to the quarter-finals last year in France, is set to be announced as the Waratahs’ new director of performance after a global search.

Stephen Hoiles was surprised by Josh Canham’s omission from the Wallabies squad to play Wales and Georgia.

The position is a powerful new role, which will sit above the Waratahs head coach and take control of all elements of the rugby program at the now Rugby Australia-owned franchise.

Raiwalui’s appointment is expected to be announced on Friday. He will take part in the final stages of the recruitment of a new Waratahs coach, which has Scott Wisemantel and the newly available Dan McKellar as leading candidates.

Raiwalui was on Michael Cheika’s staff as forwards coach of the Wallabies between 2018-2019, but finished up at the 2019 World Cup. The former Fijian international second-rower joined that nation as general manager in 2020 before taking over from Vern Cotter as head coach eight months before the World Cup.

After downing England at Twickenham in the build-up, the 49-year-old oversaw the Flying Fijians’ most successful World Cup, famously beating Australia 22-15 in St Etienne and making it to the last eight.

Raiwalui took up a high-performance role with World Rugby after the World Cup but has decided to return to the cut and thrust of franchise rugby in his home state.

He beat former Melbourne general manager Nick Stiles to the job. Former Brumbies and Connacht coach Andy Friend was being strongly considered earlier in the month but withdrew, as did Billy Millard, the Australian head of rugby at Harlequins in London.

Along with the head coach, Raiwalui’s role will be all-important in reviving the Waratahs fortunes, and he will need to hit the ground running.

The Waratahs finished last in Super Rugby Pacific after a season that featured just two wins. And after the departures of several senior forwards – and captain Jake Gordon exploring a release to play in France – the team remains in a state of flux.

The Tahs and Rugby Australia had earmarked several big stars from the Melbourne Rebels to move to Sydney for 2025, but with no coach and no general manager in place, many of the Rebels players have been baulking. The Waratahs are aiming to bring Taniela Tupou and Rob Leota to the club, at least, but missed Carter Gordon, who elected to sign with the NRL’s Gold Coast Titans earlier this month.

Another Rebels player who NSW were keen to recruit, lock Josh Canham, announced on Wednesday he had signed with the Queensland Reds. Others are set to follow, like Filipo Daugunu, and even rising winger Darby Lancaster has been linked with the Reds.

Some off-contract Waratahs players are weighing up their future and are desperate for certainty on the coaching front.

As the man who will oversee the Tahs’ list management, Raiwalui’s knowledge of many rugby competitions and environments, both at home and abroad, should see him well suited to the Waratahs head of performance role.

Raiwalui has an extensive rugby history in NSW, having grown up in Tempe and played for the Australian schoolboys and under 21s, via a club career at the Manly Marlins, where he played alongside Willie Ofahengaue.

The big lock quickly became known as a hard man of the Shute Shield, before moving overseas in 1997 to play in Wales and England, and eventually Test rugby for Fiji. He played 43 Tests between 1997 and 2006, and played at the 1999 World Cup.

Raiwalui moved into coaching in France after he retired – at Racing 92, Stade Francais and Biarritz – before being called upon by Cheika in 2018.

In a similar move, the Brumbies have announced respected West Harbour coach Cam Treloar as their new general manager of professional rugby.

Having been in tense battles with Rugby Australia for much of the past year, the Brumbies and head office are edging closer towards an agreement that will see the Super Rugby franchise come under control of RA, in a similar fashion to the Waratahs.