It was appropriate that Eddie Jones and England should deliver the knockout blow to Michael Cheika’s tenure as Wallabies coach.
Cheika’s hopes of extending his contract beyond December 31 were skewered by a stark 40-16 Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat.
Cheika’s passion for the role could never be questioned since his appointment five years ago.
However, his proud boasts that he didn’t analyse opponents and that all-out attack and inspired players could overcome the world’s best became increasingly less convincing.
His persona as a hot-headed coach routinely wronged by referees also lost any sense of charm.
The Jones-coached England were apt executioners in Oita on Saturday given the grief they have dished out.
Since Cheika scaled the heights of steering the Wallabies to the 2015 World Cup final, he has been completely eclipsed by a grinning Jones.
Seven losses from seven. Six by big margins.
The most critical result was England’s historic 2016 series sweep in Australia, stripping much of the goodwill from a year earlier.
Consistency eluded Cheika’s teams from that point on, his job not helped by off-field issues plaguing the sport and a tepid production line of quality players emerging from Australia’s Super Rugby teams.
Nine losses from 13 Tests in 2018 was the Wallabies’ worst calendar year.
Calls for Cheika’s head mounted and reports that Rugby Australia couldn’t afford to sack him were refuted.
Dumped attack coach Stephen Larkham was seemingly a sacrificial lamb.
Speculation the Wallabies had climbed straight out of their hole this year with a record triumph against the All Blacks in Perth proved to be fool’s gold.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 19, 2019
Their World Cup hopes were stymied by a selection revolving door and the newly-introduced tactic to rarely kick the ball, because “it’s not the Australian way”.
Cheika’s 50 per cent winning record is the equal worst by any Wallabies coach since 1982, matching his immediate predecessor Ewen McKenzie.
Heart on his sleeve to the end, an emotional Cheika wouldn’t confirm his departure in the immediate wake of the Oita humbling.
However, he’ll soon be free to link with French club Montpellier, if the media reports are accurate, and Australia can set about a sizeable restoration process.
It was an understandably sombre mood at the Wallabies’ post-match press conference on Saturday evening:
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