Cheika haunted by Wallabies' barren spell

SYDNEY • Michael Cheika's inability to land a major trophy during a five-year spell as Australia's rugby union coach will always weigh heavily on his mind.

The 53-year-old quit in October after a humiliating Rugby World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of England, drawing the curtain on a reign that started strongly, only to end with a whimper.

Since his departure, Cheika has been working as consultant with National Rugby League side Sydney Roosters, but he admitted to Fox Sports Australia he would always be defined by his failure to lift the underachieving Wallabies out of their rut.

Suggesting tumultuous times in domestic rugby did not help, he said: "Am I satisfied in the end?

"No, because I wanted to win a Bledisloe (Cup) and win the World Cup and I wasn't able to do that.

"That hurts me personally because I really value the supporter on the street and I know that's what they want. I see it in my own family.

"The kids are watching the game, all dressed in their jerseys and then the next morning, if you lose, they're unhappy."

Cheika's tenure was marked by a successful 2015 World Cup campaign in which Australia reached the final, before losing to the All Blacks. It earned him a world coach of the year accolade, but the final 18 months of his tenure were far less successful.

Revealing he barely had a relationship with the Rugby Australia hierarchy, Cheika added: "I've always been an outsider in rugby, outside the establishment.

"Considering the circumstances we had going on in Australian rugby in the last five years, we always represented with maximum courage.

"The Wallabies are a result of our preparations in Super Rugby and they've been difficult because we've had a lot going on."

The competition has undergone almost constant tinkering in the past decade, including the controversial axing of Perth-based franchise Western Force in 2017.

Cheika has also had to deal with players opting for lucrative contracts overseas, depriving the Wallabies of their talent, and the divisive sacking last year of Super Rugby's record try-scorer Israel Folau over his anti-gay posts on social media.

Despite this, he insisted that he still felt pride about his time as chief of Australian rugby, saying: "I'm proud of being part of some of the great wins. A lot of them played above their potential."

Two-time champions Australia last won the World Cup in 1999, while they have not secured the Rugby Championship since 2015 and the Bledisloe Cup since 2002.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2020, with the headline 'Cheika haunted by Wallabies' barren spell'. Print Edition | Subscribe