ACT Brumbies players believe Laurie Fisher's decision to quit the club to coach in Britain will have a bigger impact than the shock departure of former World Cup-winning coach Jake White.
Fisher is set to leave Canberra one year into his two-year contract as the Brumbies' director of rugby to become Gloucester's head coach at the end of the Super Rugby season.
But Fisher's coaching partner Stephen Larkham has emerged as the man to take on more responsibility next year in a traditional head coaching role at the Brumbies.
It's understood the Brumbies have already set up a committee to decide the club's next coaching structure, with Larkham the candidate to be appointed on a longer-term deal as the leader of a more traditional coaching set up.
Larkham and Fisher have shared the coaching role this season, with Larkham leading a successful retention campaign, re-signing a host of Wallabies and is set to lead the team into the future.
Fisher's exit is a massive blow for the Brumbies on the eve of the biggest match of their Super Rugby campaign against the NSW Waratahs.
While White was the face of the Brumbies' revival in 2012-13, Fisher and Larkham were driving the on-field revival behind the scenes.
Players including a trio of Wallabies captains – Ben Mowen, David Pocock and Stephen Moore – rate Fisher as one of the world's best forwards coaches and his influence has been a major factor in the team's success.
Mowen said the players wanted to end their season to reward Fisher's work.
"It's the space we live in, it's musical chairs and you've got to grab one when it's available," said Mowen, who will leave the Brumbies for France after the Super Rugby season.
"It's disappointing because the impact [Fisher] has had on the playing group has been massive and he's been here 11 years now.
"He very much is Canberra rugby. He's Brumbies rugby. He's not called 'The Lord' for nothing. We're just extremely thankful for everything he's done and we've got to make sure we get him a result to say that thanks."
Fisher met with Brumbies chairman Sean Hammond earlier this week and the Brumbies players were informed of his decision at a team meeting on Friday.
But the Brumbies and Fisher are yet to publicly confirm the veteran coach's departure, given Fisher did not want it to distract from the crucial match against the Waratahs.
Players privately expressed shock at Fisher's decision and said his influence was just as great as White's in the past three years.
Fisher has coached in Europe before. He was Brumbies head coach from 2005-08 before moving to Ireland, returning as an assistant to White in 2012.
"I'm not in a position to confirm or deny, nothing has been signed or agreed to," Fisher said. "At this stage it's speculation, the issue for us is about getting a win on Saturday night.
"There are lots of things that can disrupt preparation, but you have to be bigger and better than that. We've built a lot over the last three years and it's time to dig deep and show what we're really made of."
Larkham has led a successful recruitment campaign, re-signing six Wallabies and Test player in waiting Henry Speight in the past two months.
Fisher and Larkham both signed two-year deals to be a coaching tag team after White quit halfway through a four-year deal. But Fisher has always expressed a desire to return the Europe.
Fisher's decision to leave adds to a turbulent 12 months in which the club lost White and chief executive Andrew Fagan and moved its club headquarters from Griffith to the University of Canberra.
Mowen and Fisher backed Larkham to take charge of the Brumbies' program.
"[Larkham] has made great progress and handled himself well ... that's a decision other people will make but I'm sure whatever they decide will be appropriate," Fisher said.
"There has been a lot of disruption this year and I think we've got through that."
Mowen said the strength of the Brumbies' rugby program would ensure the team continued its success.
"The Brumbies aren't reliant on one bloke in the team or one coach ... that's the beauty of it," Mowen said.
"It definitely will be a massive loss, the way we play the game is built around our breakdown work and that's thanks to Laurie," Mowen said.
"I think what Bernie's done this year isn't unexpected from the players. What we've done this year is off the back of his experience. He'll take the next step now and the side will keep moving forward."
The story Laurie Fisher to leave ACT Brumbies for Gloucester job first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.