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‘I don’t think it’s a scapegoat play at all’: Cheika weighs in on Penney sacking

The man who coached the Waratahs to a maiden Super Rugby title, Michael Cheika, says he doesn’t subscribe to the view that sacked NSW coach Rob Penney is a scapegoat.

Speaking on a special Stan Sport program with former Wallaby and Waratah Morgan Turinui, hosted by Nick McArdle, Cheika said Penney’s role meant that all blame couldn’t be laid elsewhere.

Michael Cheika during his Waratahs days.

Michael Cheika during his Waratahs days. Credit:Anthony Johnson

Penney’s contract was torn up on Sunday after the Waratahs started the season with five losses, to go with last year’s tally of five victories from 14 starts.

“I don’t think it’s a scapegoat play at all,” said Cheika on Stan Sport. “I think that in the professional game the coach is in charge. You know your circumstances, you try and modify them, you try and change them. It’s not a personal slant, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you get the bullet.

“You take responsibility for the team that you coach. You do your absolute best to get them there. You have to have skin in the game to make the changes necessary to get them to the point that you agree with your organisation at the start when you come in. Maybe he hasn’t met the criteria of what they want.”

The Waratahs have conceded more 40 points a game and Cheika said defence was of serious concern.

“I really feel defence inside of the game is something you don’t need a lot of talent for,” Cheika said. “I think that part of it hasn’t been up to the level required.”

Cheika suggested that although Penney, the former Canterbury and Munster coach, had plenty of experience around the world, he was perhaps not the right man at the right time when he took over from Daryl Gibson at the end of 2019.

“I don’t know Rob personally. He looks like a top fella and he’s coached with a lot of experience before but I believe the whole coaching selection piece is very three-dimensional: right person for the right team at the right time. I think maybe that was where the problem came,” he said.

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