With the Rugby World Cup drawing closer and closer, it is a good opportunity to examine the top teams to see how they can best position themselves to win the competition.
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Rugby Australia has moved to appoint Scott Johnson as Director of Rugby, moving Michael Cheika to the door, though he hasn’t been quite booted out of it just yet.
It’s perhaps the most forward-thinking move the powers that be have made in recent times, with the task of implementing a modern high-performance system for the future surely at the top of Johnson’s to-do list.
The former Wallabies assistant has had immense success with the Scottish national side over the past five seasons, presiding over their largest sustained period of competitiveness in the professional era.
All good then, a thumbs up for Raelene Castle and the crew at Wallaby HQ?
Whilst the move to create a path past the 2019 Rugby World Cup is smart, what will the next 12 months look like?
Michael Cheika’s contract with RA must be more secure than Fort Knox because if a season like 2018 doesn’t get you fired, I don’t know what would.
Now, after pleading his case to his bosses in Sydney and a national canvassing campaign around the Super Rugby clubs, Cheika will get to call himself head honcho for a bit longer.
He can refer to himself as the head coach, but by the sound of things, Cheika has had almost all his power stripped away moving forward.
As well he probably should. Cheika is one of the most accomplished coaches in the world, having won Super Rugby titles and Heineken Cups alike, but he is not that guy anymore.
What’s worse, with reports coming out that Cheika has lost the large share of the dressing room, his voice surely has little or no effect anymore, even if he is still in the coaches’ box on game day.
That then begs the question: why has he not been removed from the position?
If you’re paying Scott Johnson to make all the decisions, what do you need Cheika for? Cheika was never the ‘Xs and Os’ guy as they say in the NFL, a master technical coach who installs amazing game plans.
He’s a motivator, a man-manager if you will. Someone who can get the most out of players, something David Pocock spoke to at the RUPA awards.
That’s cool when the one motivating still has the ear of those they are trying to motivate, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore.
People will say, look at what happened in Argentina. We were down in the first half, beaten, then Cheiks came in and gave them the business in the sheds, hooked the front row then everything changed for the better.
Problem being we’ve been awful ever since. Cheika is done as Wallabies coach, everyone knows it and why would those players listen to him if they know that too?
Johnson is inheriting a house with immense potential, a fixer-upper that has the bare bones of a home for the future.
Except, he won’t be able to make any renovations cause there’s an overgrown elephant in the room that everyone wants gone, not in 12 months, but right now.
With the new structure, they may as well have paid Cheika, have Johnson coach the side for next year then use that time to find a replacement.
Say we go and win the World Cup. Will everything be fine? Not at all. France probably should have taken bill home from New Zealand in 2011, and for all intents and purposes, they had no coach. Look where they are now, losing to Fiji in the recent spring internationals.
Maybe that’s RA’s thinking. No matter how bad it is, at least we have a plan for after. The cost of keeping Cheika these next 12 months is unknown, but the malaise surrounding rugby in this country is mounting.
Rugby Australia have made an intelligent move for the future by bringing Johnson in, but with Cheika hanging over the rugby community like a long dark cloud, will there be any fans left when he finally goes?