The rugby community has lined up to criticise outgoing Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who announced he’s stepping down in the wake of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final thrashing by England.
Rugby Australia's hellish season lurched again on Sunday when five-year head coach Cheika announced he will quit his post, taking pot shots at chief executive Raelene Castle and chairman Cameron Clyne.
Perhaps the most stinging criticism was directed at the coach himself, whose refusal to budge from all-out attacking tactics were widely panned after the 40-16 pummelling by England on Saturday night.
'ABSOLUTE DISGRACE': Rugby World Cup rocked by 'disgusting' act
Quade Cooper - who saw his place in the Wallabies set up disappear under Cheika's leadership - responded to the coach's departure with a savage social media post.
If he actually cared about Aus rugby he would have done it a while ago..— Quade Cooper (@QuadeCooper) October 20, 2019
Former England international Ugo Monye also unloaded on Cheika during a BT Sports discussion panel, taking specific aim at his tactics in the heavy quarter-final defeat to England.
“(It) was one of the most selfish tactical game plans I’ve seen in a long time because it wasn’t about the players,” Monye said.
“Everyone knows a blueprint of how you can challenge England. What Cheika put up against Eddie Jones — he let his players down.
“It was irresponsible because the game plan wasn’t about the players, it was about him.
“It was about ‘this is what I believe Australian rugby to be and we’re going to stick to it come hell or high water, this is the way which is going to work’. And it’s not worked in the rugby championship and in a knockout game — the biggest game of his career — I genuinely believe he’s let his players down because they’re too good a side to be getting beaten (40-16).”
Gold medal-winning Sevens coach Ben Ryan and UK-based New Zealand player Jimmy Gopperth weighed in on Monye's criticism.
“He hid behind saying we’re (playing) attacking rugby. It’s not attacking rugby if you can’t get out of your own 22," Ryan said.
"It was headless rugby. He just let down his players.”
Gopperth: “I was watching it going ‘what are you doing?’. You’ve just scored points and you’re letting England straight back in because you’re running out from your own 22.
"Sometimes you do go out with these mindsets of ‘we’re going to hang on to the ball, we’re going to make the defence work’. But when you’re under pressure — and you can feel that pressure as a player — you’ve got to step up and say ‘hang on a minute, let’s slow it down, let’s play in the right areas of the field, let’s change it, plan B’.”
Cheika has been adamant from game one of the tournament that Australia should adopt an all-out attack method, with little kicking in general play.
It was never convincing in pool play and backfired badly against England, with possession frequently turned over deep within their own territory, which the clinical winners feasted off.
Despite the avalanche of criticism, the outgoing Wallabies coach refused to accept he had got it wrong.
"That is the way we play footy. I am not going to a kick-and-defend game," he said.
"Call me naive but that's not what I am doing. I would rather win playing our way, that's the way Aussies want us to play."
Cheika throws savage parting shot at bosses
A critical Cheika said he barely had a relationship with the pair and voiced his displeasure at a change to the Wallabies coaching structure this year, saying he never felt comfortable with new director of rugby Scott Johnson overseeing his role.
Ironically, it is Johnson who will lead the process to identify and appoint a coach by Christmas, a process that was well under way before the Wallabies bowed out of the Rugby World Cup with a big loss to England in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
Whoever comes on board will have Cheika's comments echoing.
"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 (layered coaching structure)."
Castle wouldn't respond to Cheika's remarks, instead issuing a statement thanking the 52-year-old for his dedication before outlining the importance of Johnson's review into Australia's failed campaign in Japan.
However, in a separate interview with reporters, 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.