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Sport Wallabies legends call for drastic overhaul

04:15  21 october  2019
04:15  21 october  2019 Source:   wwos.nine.com.au

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The Wallabies' dismal World Cup performance should prompt a complete clean-out of the most powerful people in Australian rugby, according to several Wallabies legends, with George Gregan leading the chorus with a call to "smash the wheel".

Gregan borrowed that term from hit TV series Game of Thrones to put the Rugby Australia board and CEO as well as Wallabies selectors on notice following a disastrous campaign that ended with a 40-16 quarter-final thrashing to England and was followed the next day with the departure of coach Michael Cheika.

a man in a yellow shirt: The Wallabies were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup after being smashed by England.© Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd The Wallabies were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup after being smashed by England.

While Cheika was always likely to fall on his sword unless the Wallabies conjured a miracle and defied three years of poor form to lift the trophy, attention has now turned to the decision makers who chose to retain him following a review at the end of last year.

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Despite the sense of alarm that prompted that review, assistant coach Stephen Larkham was the only notable sacking, with Cheika kept on within a new structure that ushered in a 'Director of Rugby', the highly rated Scott Johnson, to report to.

According to one of Australian rugby's most respected commentators, Rod Kafer, that was a clear failure of the board, with recommendations from the review opening the door for a more significant change of direction, which was ignored.

"Michael Cheika didn't select himself to be coach," Kafer said on Fox Sports.

"He was chosen by a CEO and a board and then again, given the opportunity (following) a great review in December of last year, with a whole range of other alternate strategies and information presented, the board then elected to stay with that status quo in the event that they knew that the campaign could be a failure, and it has been a failure.

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"Cheik didn't select himself.

"He was selected by a board and I think they've failed in their assessment of what is the right thing for Australian rugby.

"There are a whole range of people who should be putting their hand up now and accepting responsibility for the choices they made."

Gregan was even more forceful with his point, claiming a decade of poor choices had driven the Wallabies' decline.

He said ownership of those decisions needed to be taken so that passionate rugby people could get behind a new vision for the game.

"The board was a part of this and Michael Cheika, as you've gone through, there was a big process at the end of last year, not just thinking about this World Cup and beyond and they backed him.

"These decisions go way back. It's just not Michael Cheika.

"This run has been going on for over a decade and beyond in terms of where we are with Australian rugby and we need to actually come up with a solution which brings everyone together, not just think about it at the Wallaby level but on every level and get everyone thinking in an Australian rugby way, in the Australia way.

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"Get people with the skillsets, coaches, players, administrators, everyone involved and let's get behind that.

"To use a Game of Thrones analogy you've got to smash the wheel.

"You have to start again and rebuild and you've got to rebuild with a really good framework, get yourself a good base and then good things come from that structure and that is something that we're in a position now where we're almost forced to do and look at what is good and there's some positive signs even though this is not a good situation."

Legendary Wallabies hooker Phil Kearns was a candidate for the chief executive role at RA when Raelene Castle was appointed to take over from Bill Pulver in December 2017.

In part of the discussion with Kafer and Gregan on Fox Sports, Kearns put his hand up to be part of a top to bottom review of rugby in Australia.

a man standing in front of a football game: Former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons broke down the Wallabies loss to England on Sports Sunday.© Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd Former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons broke down the Wallabies loss to England on Sports Sunday.

"If someone asked me for my opinion I'll give them my opinion.

"Where we are now isn't a Michael Cheika issue, that's part of it and the last four years, but where we are goes back 20 years and I talked about it last night.

"In the way that we have coached our coaches to coach our kids has been appalling and we've not taught them the basics of the game — catching, passing, kicking and tackling — they're the basics of the game and you can't play your pods and structures and all that rubbish unless you've got the skills to do it and that's why we're in this issue."

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