Michael Cheika’s Wallabies have gone backwards after they made the 2015 Rugby World Cup final. Picture: Getty Images
Michael Cheika’s Wallabies have gone backwards after they made the 2015 Rugby World Cup final. Picture: Getty Images

Coach Cheika failed the Wallabies

For just the third time in World Cup history, Australia has failed to make the semi-finals and the blame falls squarely on coach Michael Cheika.

His five-year tenure is finished, and in losing by the embarrassing 40-16 margin to England his planning has been exposed as a failure.

The Wallabies believed they could run from their own line and put on an attacking masterclass in a knockout match. And this with their fifth different starting halves combination in five games. And a teenager starting his first Test at outside centre. And a history of failing to deliver this very plan against well-drilled defences.

Much applause should go to Cheika for sticking to his guns. He entered the job promising to revitalise the Wallabies, bringing back the exciting approach Australian fans longed for.

But with that comes the expectation of results.

 

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Michael Cheika’s Wallabies have gone backwards after they made the 2015 Rugby World Cup final. Picture: Getty Images
Michael Cheika’s Wallabies have gone backwards after they made the 2015 Rugby World Cup final. Picture: Getty Images

It was clear in the historic 3-0 whitewash England put over the Wallabies in Australia in 2016 that a finetuning of the attacking mindset was required.

Instead, Cheika became more determined to bludgeon his methods onto his players.

We saw them beaten regularly by England, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. Suddenly Argentina and Scotland were running them ragged.

Cheika's resistance to change plans, or drop Bernard Foley as his five-eighth, inevitably came back to bite Australian rugby.

He discarded attack coach Stephen Larkham after the disastrous 2018 spring tour, but was given Scott Johnson and Michael O'Connor as minders to his selections, forming a three-man panel.

Who knows how that dynamic worked, but the carousel of Foley, Christian Lealifano and Matt Toomua in the No. 10 jersey in the past nine games tells the tale of indecision and lack of faith.

 

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika hugs captain Michael Hooper after the quarter-final loss to England. Picture: Getty Images
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika hugs captain Michael Hooper after the quarter-final loss to England. Picture: Getty Images

Cheika took the Wallabies to the World Cup final in 2015, then had four years to plot the course to go one better, but has finished four places back. With a squad as talented as his last.

The lack of combination and cohesion was the ultimate factor in Australia's worst World Cup performance in 12 years.

He wears his heart on his sleeve. He is more passionate about his players than most coaches on the scene.

But Cheika took the Wallabies down a road where there was a plan of attack, and nothing beyond.

His aggressive demeanour and constant whining at refereeing decisions left Australian fans nonplussed.

Now, it appears the job will head to Kiwi Dave Rennie, a no-nonsense figure who took the underperforming Chiefs to back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

He has a record of turning rabble into gold.

That's what the Wallabies are now, a rabble in need of strategy and clarity.

News Corp Australia


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