In the aftermath of Australia’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final loss to England on Saturday, it has not been pleasant for departing head coach Michael Cheika.
It was expected that the 52-year-old would move on if the Wallabies did not win the RWC, and after the 40-16 loss to their old enemy in Oita, he confirmed that he would not renew his contract.
Since then, the knives have been out for Cheika, as he has faced a litany of criticism from players and journalists. He has been labelled selfish for his approach to the quarter-final and a far cry from the man that led the Wallabies to the RWC final in 2015.
Exiled flyhalf Quade Cooper was one player to turn on him on Twitter, saying “If he actually cared about Aus rugby he would have done it [resigned] a while ago.”
If he actually cared about Aus rugby he would have done it a while ago..
— Quade Cooper (@QuadeCooper) October 20, 2019
Cheika has fought back himself, and has taken a parting shot at Rugby Australia, criticising the structure of the organisation. But it largely seems like he is on his own in this situation to face a barrage of abuse.
However, 52-cap Wallaby James O’Connor has leapt to his coach’s defence, thanking him for giving him another chance in international rugby.
The 29-year-old had faced a six-year absence from the Wallabies team until he was selected for the Rugby Championship this year. After a promising start to his career, the utility back became a pariah of Australian rugby, and left to play abroad in 2013. But he said on Instagram that he has a “great deal of respect” for Cheika for allowing him back onto the Test scene.
This is what he said: “When I was looking for an opportunity, you went out of your way to accommodate and provide me with the circumstance for a chance. I want to thank you for that and all you have done for Australian rugby.”
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Just want to send some energy the way of a man who I have a great deal of respect for. When I was looking for an opportunity, you went out of your way to accommodate and provide me with the circumstance for a chance. I want to thank you for that and all you have done for Australian rugby. Hope you find some peace in your retirement ?
Although things may have turned sour in the final months, or even years, of Cheika’s tenure, he still delivered a Rugby Championship title and a RWC silver medal. While he may receive quite a backlash from the Australian public, it is good to see that some players are there to defend him as well.
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