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Late Cheik out: time for Wallabies rebuild and not a moment too soon

In 1995, the Wallabies in South Africa made the mistake of selecting too many injured and past-it players while the rise of World Rugby Corporation was a distraction. The 2007 campaign in France was not helped by the fact Australian coach John Connolly was not at his tactical best. Connolly should have been in charge a decade earlier, instead of Greg Smith, but missed out due to treacherous NSW-Queensland politicking.

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At least the 1995 and 2007 teams, who both lost to England by a few points, were intelligent and could think on their feet. Not so the 2019 Wallabies. This is a dumb outfit that became dumber the longer Cheika had control.

A fire-and-brimstone coaching style, an arrogant, holier-than-thou attitude and a steady stream of emotional outbursts in the coach’s box can only get you so far.

It breeds ill-discipline. And so the stupid moments continued, such as in the early minutes of the quarter-final when Wallabies hooker Tolu Latu, a serial visitor to the sin bin, decided to pat England tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler on the head after Australia had their first scrum triumph. How dopey – it gave England the spur to stick it up Latu and his front-row partners for the rest of the game. And they did exactly that.

Ill-discipline also causes a team to act as a group of individuals rather than a cohesive unit. The Cheika era will be remembered for the losses to major opponents, a slide to seventh in the world rankings and being leapfrogged by Japan, and the transformation of a once lively outfit into a clueless rabble.

Cheika gave himself up in a pre-match media conference by admitting: “I’m not a big analyser of the opposition.”

The five-year reign of Michael Cheika has had its share of inexplicable decisions.

The five-year reign of Michael Cheika has had its share of inexplicable decisions.Credit:Getty

That was obvious against England, a team led by a coaching mastermind in Eddie Jones who knew exactly what Australian players to target. The Wallabies, on the other hand, went for blind, headless-chicken, one-out, ball-in-hand play that enabled their “unknown opponents” to win in second gear, and with only 36 per cent possession.

Where Cheika really lost it was at the selection table.

To be a good coach one has to be an even better selector. Bob Dwyer and Rod Macqueen were excellent selectors, and reaped World Cup success. But Cheika’s approach was scatter-gun, even madcap at times. He seemed to take delight in bewildering the public and his players with line-up revisions. Many of his choices were baffling. Sometimes even he appeared baffled when trying to explain his own dunderhead selections.

It was hoped the addition of Michael O’Connor and Scott Johnson to the selection process would bring some clarity. But the odd choices continued, which is surprising considering O’Connor is a shrewd judge of talent. Maybe O’Connor was outvoted.

If Cheika was an AFL or NRL coach, he would have been sacked well over a year ago

For Cheika not to have worked out who his best No.10 was in the lead-up to the World Cup was downright ludicrous. And the continual chopping and changing of his No.9-No.10 combination did nothing for team morale or consistency. Skill levels also nose-dived.

It is hard to feel sympathetic towards Cheika, who too often employed bully-boy tactics to keep the media at bay. The head-nodders on the RA board basically allowed him to do whatever he liked, including surrounding himself with acolytes, picking expanded training squads, and embarking on endless money-wasting exercises, including a 10-day boot camp in New Caledonia.

New Caledonia?????

As his close mate Pat Molihan, a rugby league TV reporter before strangely becoming Wallabies team manager, would know – if Cheika was an AFL or NRL coach, he would have been sacked well over a year ago.

Bring on the Rennie revolution.

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