SYDNEY, Australia, Oct 19 – Michael Cheika has the full backing of Rugby Australia through to the World Cup next year, chairman Cameron Clyne said Friday, easing pressure on the beleaguered Wallabies coach.
Calls had been mounting for Cheika to be axed after six losses in eight matches ahead of their trip to Argentina earlier this month.
But a stunning comeback from 24 points down at half-time saw Australia beat Los Pumas 45-34, handing him some breathing space.
And after presenting his plans to the Rugby Australia board on Friday for the lead up to the World Cup in Japan, Cheika won their support.
“We’re supporting him absolutely,” said Clyne. “You have to be unequivocal, that’s the way we’ve been, quite consistent. We’re supporting him absolutely.”
The jobs of backs coach Stephen Larkham, defence coach Nathan Grey and forwards coach Simon Raiwalu are also safe, amid speculation that a former Wallaby like George Gregan could be added to the staff as a selector-type figure.
“The reality is we support him (Cheika) and we support the structure he’s put in place. You’ve got to allow your coach to pick the team that he’s supporting,” said Clyne.
“He’s obviously indicated he’s very comfortable with his coaching structure and we back him with that.”
Clyne played down suggestions Friday’s meeting amounted to “crisis talks”, instead saying the board simply wanted to go through what measures it could take to help prepare for the World Cup.
“What are the sort of resources, what we don’t want to have is that we’ve left anything on the table that leaves the Wallabies in a position not to win a World Cup,” he said.
“So it was just a really good and open discussion about how do we feel about this year, what do we think went well, what are the opportunities for improvement.”
The Wallabies head to Japan next week for the third and final Bledisloe Cup clash against New Zealand ahead of a spring tour to Europe in November where they play Wales, Italy and England.
Despite a poor season so far, Clyne said he remained confident leading into the World Cup.
“The potential’s there and that’s why we think this is the right team and the right coach to take us through that,” he said.