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Wallabies stars praise Michael Cheika

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'I owe that man a lot': Wallabies stars refuse to blame World Cup debacle on Michael Cheika

The Wallabies have returned to Australia accepting they just weren’t good enough after their humbling Rugby World Cup quarter-final exit.

Skipper Michael Hooper refused to blame coach Michael Cheika’s erratic selections or high-risk game plan for Saturday’s 40-16 loss to England on his arrival at Sydney airport on Tuesday morning.

“We weren’t able to execute our big moments. Our game plan was solid. We believed, we bought into the game plan a hundred per cent,” Hooper said.

“And by the way we started, which was (behind) a lot of the criticism we’d copped up until that point, was pretty good, pretty sharp.

“We came out of the blocks and had the English under a lot pressure.

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“You can talk about game plan or certain skill areas in parts of the field, and we’ll do a full review still of that game because it’s a big-moment game and a lot of players who played in that game will be going on in the future.

“So we’ve got to have a look at how we would have done it different.”

Cheika quit on Sunday after presiding over Australia’s worst World Cup campaign before making the stunning claim that he had virtually no relationship with Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle.

But Hooper and champion flanker David Pocock both maintained Cheika had the full backing of the entire 31-man squad throughout the tournament.

“Me personally, Cheik’s been amazing for me. I owe that man a lot,” Hooper said.

“The passion that he represented us, stood up for us all the time and just genuinely wanted the best for Australian rugby.

“Not just the team, not just for him being the coach of the team, but what’s best for Australian rugby after he’s long gone, to leave something that’s positive.”

Pocock said the playing group was very much shielded from Cheika’s dysfunctional relationship with Castle and RA chairman Cameron Clyne, and insisted the off-field friction had no bearing on the Wallabies’ poor showing in Japan.

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“There’s no excuses,” Pocock said.

“We prepared well and you’ve got to cop it on the chin. We weren’t good enough.”

Neither Hooper or Pocock, who has retired from international rugby, would be drawn on who should replace Cheika.

Two-time Super Rugby-winning coach Dave Rennie is the frontrunner, with fellow New Zealander Jamie Joseph, former Wallabies mentor Eddie Jones – who remains contracted with England for two more years – and ex-assistant coach Stephen Larkham have also been mentioned as possible candidates.

AAP

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'I owe that man a lot': Wallabies stars refuse to blame World Cup debacle on Michael Cheika