Rugby Australia gives Cheika full support as Wallabies coach
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Rugby Australia has relieved some pressure on embattled Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, saying he has the full support of the board and will serve the full term of his contract.
At the same time, though, RA chief executive Raelene Castle says the governing body “can’t just ignore” the poor performance of the Wallabies in Bledisloe Cup tests against New Zealand over the past two weekends.
Australia’s 38-13 and 40-12 defeats allowed New Zealand to stretch its hold on the Bledisloe Cup to 16 years and led critics to call on Cheika to quit or be fired.
Castle was due to meet with Cheika on Tuesday to determine what resources he believes he needs to close the growing gap between the Wallabies and top-ranked All Blacks. But she said there was no intention to replace Cheika before his contract expires at next year’s World Cuyp in Japan. Chieka has said he will step down if Australia fails to win that tournament.
“He’s contracted through to World Cup. He’s got a plan, we’re across that plan, we’re comfortable with it,” Castle said Tuesday. “But clearly, you can’t just ignore the performances, they’re not acceptable.
“So it’s about what can we do to support him as an organization to make sure he’s got what he needs. Certainly from our perspective, the board and myself, our support’s behind Michael Cheika.”
While Castle’s comments indicated Cheika’s job is safe, his assistants, including defense coach Nathan Grey, may not be as secure.
“There’s parts of the game (where) we haven’t performed, particularly around our defense, and that would be something that we’ll be having a conversation about,” said Castle, a New Zealander who took the RA job after a stint in Australia’s National Rugby League. “I don’t think it’s about changing what we’ve got. It’s about what can we bring.
“We’ve got a wide rugby community that’s had significant success on the world stage. What can we use in those experts that are proud Australians that want to help the Wallabies to make sure that we can continue to be successful?”