The Waratahs are refusing to rule out the prospect of former head coach Michael Cheika returning to the New South Wales franchise following the sacking of Rob Penney last weekend.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, rumours have been swirling within Sydney rugby circles that the former Wallabies boss is among the candidates to fill the Waratahs’ head coach role that has been vacated by Penney.
The return of Cheika would be a significant shock for the Waratahs, who are languishing in last place in Super Rugby AU after a winless start to the season.
During his time with the franchise between 2013 and 2015, the 54-year-old guided the New South Welshmen to their first-ever Super Rugby title in 2014 before taking over the reins of the Wallabies the following year.
A surprise run to the 2015 World Cup final was followed by a dismal four years which culminated in a quarter-final exit at the hands of England in the 2019 World Cup, which effectively cost Cheika his job with the national side.
Since then, he has spent time with Los Pumas and the Sydney Roosters in the NRL in assistant and advisory capacities and is set to take on the head coach role of the Lebanese rugby league team at this year’s Rugby League World Cup in the United Kingdom.
Another cross-code move back to the Waratahs could be his next career step, as the Herald reports that while NSW Rugby hasn’t spoken with Cheika about such a move, one official has been quoted as saying “nothing is off the table”.
The idea of Cheika returning to the Waratahs has been cautiously welcomed by former All Blacks first-five Andrew Mehrtens, who said that the former Leinster and Stade Francais boss will have improved as a coach since he left the franchise.
“I think Cheik is a good coach and he’s obviously an experienced coach. He’s passionate about the Waratahs and these are all things Rob Penney was too,” Mehrtens said on Stan Sport.
I think perhaps Cheik is a bit more politically resilient. He is extremely forthright and that might be too much for some in what is clearly a sensitive environment currently.
“Since he last left the Waratahs he has had international experience. You’d have to think that’s added to his ability as a coach as well.
“I don’t know what the structure is … but I think sacking Penney was a hasty decision for starters but it’s done now and it’s important to now look forward.”
The Waratahs fell to their sixth successive defeat of the season on Friday, coming up short in a 24-22 loss to the Brumbies at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
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