Raelene Castle has responded to Michael Cheika’s claims that he had no relationship with the Rugby Australia CEO.
Cheika explosively lifted the lid on his broken relationship with Rugby Australia bosses after confirming he will quit as Wallabies coach at the end of the year.
Chieka won't seek an extension to the five years he has served after the Wallabies were beaten 40-16 by England in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.
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Less than 24 hours after Australia were kicked out of the World Cup, the 52-year-old exposed what he said was a dysfunctional relationship with both chief executive Castle and chairman Cameron Clyne.
In claims described as ‘disturbing’ by former RA boss John O’Neill, he also said he felt uncomfortable working in the new Wallabies coaching structure in which he was answerable to director of rugby Scott Johnson, who took up the role early this year.
"I think it's no secret that I've pretty much got no relationship with the CEO and not much with the chairman," Cheika said.
"Scott's a lovely bloke and I get on fine with him but I'm sort of not really into that type of thing."
Castle has since responded, saying she was taken aback by Cheika’s claims.
“Yeah I think it surprised me,” Castle said on Fox Sports on Monday night.
“At the end of the day, the CEO-coach relationships are never straightforward. Having gone through a number of them myself, you understand the ups and downs.
“We put some changes in place that Michael expressed he was not 100 per cent comfortable with.
“But at the end of the day, what I can tell you is the board continued to support Michael and gave him all the support he needed going into this World Cup.”
Wallabies and NSW Waratahs star Nick Phipps has since expressed his dislike of the way Johnson was brought in to oversee Cheika.
“It was always going to be trouble and the board probably knew that at the time,” Phipps told Macquarie Sports Radio.
“Cheik and Scott are both loud, big, powerful men so them going at it behind closed doors, the players never really knew that was going on.
“You could tell towards the end a lot of things were happening that weren’t as congruent or Cheik’s ways as to earlier seasons, ultimately he said that made it feel very hard.”
Wallabies on hunt for new coach
Ironically, it is Johnson who will lead the process to identify and appoint a new Wallabies coach by Christmas, a process that was well underway before the Wallabies bowed out of the World Cup.
Castle described the World Cup outcome as "incredibly disappointing", before taking it a step further when assessing the Wallabies' modest returns over the last four years under Cheika.
"No, I don't think anyone would think that we have been satisfied with the results. I think it has been a very challenging time."
She defended the retention of Cheika following a widespread review last December, saying the information gathered had proved invaluable as RA seeks to not just find a quality replacement but also improve other parts of the high performance pathway.
"We looked at the (coaching) options that we had available to us but could not just think about Rugby World Cup, but think about the longer-term options for rugby in Australia," Castle said.
"We made the decision in appointing Scott Johnson into that role and to think about, yes, the improvements he could bring to the program in the short-term but definitely with the long-term strategy as well."
Glasgow-base Kiwi Dave Rennie is heavily favoured to be the new coach because of his excellent reputation and close relationship with Johnson, who was director of rugby in Scotland last year.
Cheika's bitter departure words continue a 2019 dotted with bushfires for RA to put out, alongside the inferno which is the litigation battle around the torn-up contract of former star Israel Folau.