It is the End for Michael Cheika?

This is a hot question in the world of rugby that could be legitimately argued on both sides, Cheika is a passionate figure who wears his heart on his shoulder which has work against him on times, he never shy’s away from speaking his mind and has gotten himself into trouble in the past by criticising referees.

Michael Cheika’s coaching career has included successful spells with Leinster and the Waratahs, winning the 2008 Celtic League and 2009 Heineken Cup with Leinster and the 2014 Super Rugby title with the Waratahs. Cheika also worked in France for 2 years with Stade Francais whom he guided to a European Challenge Cup final in 2011.

Cheika has been in charge of Wallabies for over 4 years after being appointed in 2014 following the resignation of Ewen Mckenzie. Cheika’s reign began ahead of 2014 Autumn Internationals, his first competitive match saw the Wallabies record a 33-28 win over Wales in Cardiff but this was followed by three consecutive defeats.

The first was a narrow 3 point loss to France in Paris, the second a 26-23 loss to Ireland and their tour finished with 26-17 defeat to England at Twickenham, this was first time since 2005 the Wallabies lost 3 of their 4 Autumn test matches, however their form improved the next season.

The Wallabies rebounded in 2015 winning their first ever Rugby Championship by defeating the All Blacks 27-19, Argentina 34-9 and South Africa 24-20.

The 2015 Rugby Championship was shortened to only 6 matches due to the Rugby World Cup taking place later on in the year, the Wallabies were placed in the group of death which included Fiji, Wales, Uruguay and tournament host’s England. Australia demolished Uruguay 65-3 in their opening pool match and comfortably despatched Fiji 28-13 the following week.

The Wallabies first major test of the World Cup was against England who were shocked after losing 23-20 to Wales the previous game, England needed to win to stay in their own tournament and victory for Australia would leave them in pole position to top the group.

Two converted tries and two penalties from Bernard Foley guided Australia to a 20-3 lead going into half-time, England made a brief comeback in the second-half coming within 7 points of the Wallabies. However Australia proved to be to strong for England slowly easing out of sight with two more penalties from Bernard Foley opening up a 13 point lead.

Matt Giteau scored with the last play of the game to crush England, the Wallabies dumped the English out of their own World Cup to set up a match against Wales to decide who would finish top of Pool A. Australia put in an incredible defensive performance against the Welsh limiting them to only 6 points, Bernard Foley converted 5 penalties to help the Wallabies to a 15-6 victory.

Australia defeated Scotland 35-34 in the quarter-finals and Argentina 29-15 in the semi-finals to reach their fourth World Cup final. The Wallabies faced tournament favourites New Zealand at Twickenham and they struggled badly in the first-half going in 16-3 down at half-time, Ma’a Nonu extended the All Blacks two minutes after half-time to open a 18 point lead.

Australia fought back with tries from David Pocock and Tevita Kunidrani to come within 4 points, but a drop goal and penalty from Dan Carter restored the All Blacks dominance, a 79th minute try from Beaudan Barrett added the gloss for the All Blacks. The Wallabies lost the final 34-17, despite this Cheika was named the World Rugby coach of the year in 2015.

Australia have always been a consistent force in world rugby so despite the large amount of players retiring after the World Cup the Wallabies were still expected to maintain their impressive form, this didn’t happen. Australia began their 2016 campaign with a three-test series against England in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. The Wallabies lost all three tests to England and were whitewashed at home.

Australia finished second in the Rugby Championship winning three and losing three to finish behind New Zealand, this inconsistency continued into their autumn tour where the Wallabies beat Wales, Scotland and France but they suffered back to back defeats to Ireland and England. Australia played 15 matches in 2016 winning seven and losing eight.

Australia have gone through a period of transition with Cheika introducing a multitude of new players who have struggled to step up to the demands of international rugby.  Cheika has only selected the exact same squad for consecutive matches on two occasions during his reign and has never found a consistent starting 15, which has led to lack of cohesion with their performances on the field, the Wallabies sketchy form continued into 2017.

42 players have made their debut for Australia since Cheika took over in October 2014.

The Wallabies 2017 campaign began with a 37-14 victory of Fiji, a 24-19 loss to Scotland and a 40-27 win over Italy, this was followed by a second place finish in the Rugby Championship with two victories, two draws and two losses. In September Australia recorded a 23-18 victory of New Zealand in the third Bledisloe Cup test, this was their first victory over New Zealand since 2015.

Australia backed this up with three consecutive victories against the Barbarians, Japan and Wales, however this form didn’t last long with the Wallabies losing 30-6 to England and a record 54-23 lost to Scotland at Murrayfield. Australia played 15 matches in 2017 winning 7, drawing 2 and losing 6, a slight improvement on the previous year but not enough to indicate major progress.

2018 has been by far Cheika’s worst year in charge of the Wallabies. The season began with a 2-1 test series loss to Ireland, despite Australia winning the first test 18-9. Ireland won the second test 26-21 and edged the third 20-16. The Wallabes also struggled in the Rugby Championship losing four of their six matches while recording only two wins, Australia were also whitewashed 3-0 by the All Blacks in the Bledisloe cup.

In the Autumn Internationals the Wallabies lost 9-6 to Wales which was their lost to the Welsh in over 10 years, this was followed by 26-7 victory over Italy. Australia will conclude their 2018 tour with a game against England at Twickenham, they will go into the match as big underdogs having lost their last 6 matches against the English. So far in 2018 Australia have played 12 matches winning four, drawing two and losing six.

So should Michael Cheika be sacked? in my opinion no, I can understand why the question is being asked but with the 2019 World Cup just around the corner I don’t really see the point. The Wallabies have clearly declined under Cheika and his 49% win percentage and Australia’s ever lowest standing of 7th on the IRB world rankings makes for some grim reading, but I believe Cheika should see out his contract which expires at the end of the World Cup next year and then he should be replaced.

https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/rugby-s-struggle-for-relevance-and-unlikely-grassroots-revival-20180820-p4zyjm.html

I still rate Michael Cheika as a head coach and I think he will do a good job wherever he ends up after he inevitably leaves his post next year, as for Australia solving their problems will be a lot more complicated and I think it will be a very long time before we see Australia at the summit of world rugby once again.

Credits

I would to credit Sanzaar, Rugby,com.au, Rugby highlights 2, World rugby, Toxic sports and the Sydney Morning Herald for the videos and article used in this blog, the relevent links are below.

Sydney Morning Herald.

World Rugby.

Toxic Sports.

Rugby Highlights 2.

Sanzaar.

 

 

 

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