I am a fan of Michael Cheika but I am starting to see some worrying trends appearing that are making me think that he has quite a lot in common with Eddie Jones.
Hanging onto old players who were great but are past their use by date or keeping a central group of players rather than being able to identify a young player who can grow into a great.
A reluctance to bring players off the field who are not performing – for instance Nick Phipps against the Pommies – is another hallmark. As much as I admire where he has been Wycliff Palu is another recipient of this approach. Stephen Moore has been one of our greats but I think his performances are not as good this season as they were once.
Where is the approach of letting them go with one season left in them?
As Bob Dwyer proved there is always talent around but you need to be able see it and then develop and use it. There seems to be nothing like this happening with our young players,
I sum this up as a conservative approach to playing the game, he seems to be trying to hold on to a team while all around him is changing. The Kiwis have sped up the game dramatically and changed the roles of some players, yet Cheika thinks all we need a ‘little’ more fitness!
When Cheika took over he made it clear nobody was safe and it worked well. It seems that now he is trying to hang onto some players who need to be put under pressure.
At least Cheika does not coach the game based on statistics as Jones did. His stats-based approach to scrumming made us a laughing stock and put us behind. It took five years before we had a decent scrum.
I just hope that between now and 2019 (next Rugby World Cup) we don’t end up with the same legacy that Eddie Jones left us. That is a whole generation of young players who either went overseas or gave the game away.