Cheika out as Australia coach after Rugby World Cup exit

OITA, Japan (AP) — Michael Cheika has followed through on his pre-World Cup vow and confirmed he won’t seek to renew his contract as Australia coach following a quarterfinal loss to England.

The Wallabies were thumped 40-16 by England, coached by Australia’s Eddie Jones, on Saturday night.

Cheika made his decision overnight, and said he’d left himself no real choice.

“I had no regrets about making the call, but yes I would love to stay on,” he said. “I put my chips in earlier in the year (when) I told people ‘no win, no play.’

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“I’m the type of man who is always going to back what he says, and I knew from the final whistle. But I just wanted to give it that little bit time to cool down, talk to my people and then make it clear.”

The 52-year-old former backrower had some parting shots for the administration of the game in Australia, saying “It’s no secret I’ve pretty much got no relationship with the CEO.”

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle responded in a statement Sunday describing Cheika as a “passionate and experienced coach.”

She acknowledged Cheika’s early success after being hired “at a turbulent time” in 2014 and transforming an embattled squad into World Cup finalists within 12 months and being voted coach of the year in 2015.

“He cares deeply about the Wallabies and the game of rugby, and always set out with the aim of making Wallabies fans proud of the team’s performances,” Castle said.

After a review of Australia’s performance in 2018, Rugby Australia appointed Scott Johnson and Michael O’Connor as Wallabies selectors and changed some management structures around team.

Cheika said he found the changes “a little bit difficult at times.”

“On this occasion I put my chips in, I didn’t get it right, but I always back the players to get the job done,” he said. “I had full trust in them that they would get it done. Didn’t happen, weren’t good enough and that’s the way (it) rolls.”

Cheika will finish with 34 wins, 31 losses and two draws from 67 tests at the helm, although his record since the 2015 World Cup was 23 wins from 51 tests and Australia’s ranking slipped to No. 7.

Yet he said he’d never actually considered he’d be leaving his post until the last 24 hours.

“That’s the way I am, I’m able to make those cutoffs around situation or the environment,” he said, “I’m able to stay focused inside of what I’m doing and then when the other situation appears I’ll deal with it then.”

“I’ve never coached as a job,” added Cheika, whose contract expires on Dec. 31. “I’ve always coached for thrill, for the pleasure, so I haven’t really thought about what I’m doing next.”

Cheika’s drew plenty of criticism for his management style in recent seasons, and for his preoccupation with a running game plan rather than a pragmatic approach.

Veteran flyhalf Quade Cooper wasn’t sad to see his former coach go.

“If he actually cared about Aus rugby he would have done it a while ago,” Cooper posted on Twitter.

New Zealander Dave Rennie is among the candidates expected to be in line for the job.

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