Wallaby great David Campese is backing Michael Cheika, who has lost 13 of his last 16 matches in charge of Australia, to continue in the role because there is “nobody” to take over.
Cheika has received another vote of confidence from Australian rugby chiefs heading into Saturday’s clash with Italy in Padua and Campese can understand why that has happened despite the recent results. He told BT Sport; “A year out from the World Cup you cannot change now because unfortunately, at the moment, there is nobody in Australia. We used to play differently but at the moment we have two Kiwis and one South African coaches in Super Rugby and there is no where to go in Australia to be a Super Rugby coach.
“There is no process – even Cheik had to go overseas to become Australia coach and we are struggling at the moment. In New Zealand there are ex-players coaching who come through a system and we haven’t quite worked that out yet. Cheik said that after the World Cup he is going to retire.”
Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle is adamant the head coach will take the squad to Japan, however, his assistant coaches could be under threat from a planned end of year review that will follow the final European tour test with England at Twickenham on November 24.
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While critics are focussing on his assistant coaches, Cheika has complete faith in Stephen Larkham, Nathan Grey, Simon Raiwalui and Mick Byrne, but it could be taken out of his hands. Italy have failed to beat the Wallabies in 17 attempts and this match follows a 9-6 tryless loss to Wales which only heaped more pressure on Cheika and his fellow coaches.
However, Castle has reiterated her position that Cheika has RA’s support even after an eighth loss this year. “At the end of the day, Michael’s contract goes through to the World Cup,” said Castle. “We’ve said that publicly and we’re continuing to support that stance. There is a review at the end of every year. There is no doubt that that’s become even more important because of our performances but the review will identify the areas that we need to focus on as we move on to that very important World Cup next year.”
Former Wallaby great Michael Lyangh spelled out the reality of the situation to RugbyPass last month stating; “He (Cheika) will stay because a) there is nobody else and b)there is a financial issue that the ARU wouldn’t be able to meet. So, on both those fronts the logistics of trying to get rid of Michael are not right.”
Prop Sekope Kepu, who has played in 101 tests to match David Campese, insists Cheika has protected the players from the flak from home and abroad. “He’s dealt with it in his own way and not let it affect the team too much,” said 32-year-old Kepu. “ I don’t read the media and that stuff. That is part of how I look at it. You just worry about what is going on in the team environment. As long as we are honest with each other in this team that is all that matters to me. It’s another week and the chance to chase the goal that we want and the goals we have set ourselves.
“It has been a tough year but the boys are sticking tight and we’re trusting that we keep chipping away at things. The results will come. The World Cup is still 12 months away but this week is another massive challenge and a chance for us to build. It’s a good chance to come away strong for the rest of the year.”
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