Sport The breakdown: What caused the split between Cheika and Castle?
Cheika's Wallabies disappointed: Castle
The search for Michael Cheika's replacement is at full steam and Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle hopes the new coach can get the Wallabies firing again.Raelene Castle has resisted responding to Michael Cheika's astonishing revelation of broken relationships at the top of Rugby Australia, but she says the Wallabies have failed to fire under the departing coach.
Senior Wallabies players say they had no idea of the extent of the breakdown in communications between outgoing coach Michael Cheika and chief executive Raelene Castle amid calls for an independent review into Australia's World Cup failure to extend to the performance of Rugby Australia as a whole.
The fallout from the Wallabies' quarter-final captitulation to England continued on Tuesday when the touring party were greeted by a sizeable media contingent on their return to Australia.
Wallabies respond to Quade's Cheika 'potshot'
David Pocock and Michael Hooper have expressed disappointment over Quade Cooper's criticism of departed coach Michael Cheika. Cheika has copped a tonne of criticism after the Wallabies were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup by England at the quarter-final stage. The tension escalated when he revealed he barely had a relationship with CEO Raelene Castle and chairman Cameron Clyne.
The positions of Rugby Australia chairman Cameron Clyne and chief executive Raelene Castle have come under scrutiny since Cheika revealed he had virtually no relationship with either during his last year at the helm.
Clyne's position is reportedly up in the air, despite wanting to stay on for another term. Castle's position appears to be safe but there is discontent from some sectors in the game. Former Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill told the Herald on Monday he was staggered that the game's chief executive could have such a fractured working relationship with Cheika.
Castle got the nod over former Wallaby Phil Kearns in a two-horse race for the role of RA chief executive in 2017. Given that the friendship between Cheika and Kearns goes back to their Randwick days, Castle was always going to find it hard to win over the former Waratahs coach.
Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle defends relationship with departing Wallabies coach Michael Cheika amid World Cup fallout
Raelene Castle defends Rugby Australia's approach to the Rugby World Cup, saying coach Michael Cheika had "all the support he needed" ahead of the tournament. After Saturday's devastating Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat against England, Cheika announced he would step down at the end of the year.
Cheika was unhappy when Castle and the RA board moved to reign in his power in December last year, appointing Scott Johnson as a director of rugby and independent selector Michael O'Connor. Cheika axed his assistant, Stephen Larkham at the same time.
Cheika, who had been in the job four years by that point, wanted full autonomy - but after a horror run that had seen the Wallabies lose nine of 13 Tests in Australia, was forced to accept the changes in order to keep his job.
"Scott [Johnson] is a lovely bloke and I get on fine with him, but I'm not really into that type of thing," Cheika said. "I like to take responsibility."
That skirmish left a wound in the relationship between coach and CEO which never healed, but Castle nevertheless spoke regularly about being prepared to give Cheika whatever resources necessary to help the Wallabies succeed at the World Cup. Cheika would not expand on his earlier comments when he arrived home yesterday.
Cheika wants next Wallabies coach to be Australian
The outgoing coach is keen for a home-grown replacement in the hot seat.Cheika returned to Sydney on Tuesday still disappointed by the Wallabies’ quarter-final exit from the Rugby World Cup, but with no regrets about standing down after five years at the helm.
"It's an irrelevant issue, honestly,'' said Cheika, insisting the fractured relationship with Castle and chairman Clyne couldn't be blamed for Australia's equal-worst World Cup campaign. "It's for other people to decide all that. My job's with the team ... no excuses, no nothing. That's the way I've always operated and that's the way I'll continue to operate."
Cheika cannot complain that RA was unsupportive in the lead-up to Japan. The governing body understood how important it was for the health of the game for the Wallabies to do well at the World Cup.
"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," Castle told Fox Sports this week.
While many in rugby circles were aware that Cheika and Castle did not see eye-to-eye, players were genuinely suprised by the revelation, even though the coach said it was "no secret".
Pictures: Rugby World Cup, the agony and ecstacy
"I know that relationships aren't always straightforward but whatever they did, they kept it pretty well hidden from us players," captain Michael Hooper said at Sydney airport on Tuesday. "I think that's a pretty good credit to keep it away from us. We have a job to do and they didn't put it in front of our face."
$10m Folau case sucked into World Cup chaos
Rugby Australia's infighting could jeopardise the governing body's legal dispute against Israel Folau, a new report says. Cheika quit his post after Australia's Rugby World Cup failure then revealed a broken relationship with Castle, plus RA chairman Cameron Clyne. Castle responded by pointing out the dire lack of results under Cheika's tenure since he reached the final of the previous World Cup. Somehow, the warring parties must come together to combat Folau's $10 million legal claim against Rugby Australia, which could cripple the sport.
David Pocock, sporting a battle wound on his face from a brutal quarter-final against England, echoed Hooper's comments.
"In the wash-up there's so much talk about CEO-coach relationship … and they were certainly very good at hiding that from the players," Pocock said. "From our perspective, we prepared as best we could."
Now Cheika has all but left the building, RA must decide the best way ahead. The governing body may yet heed the call by former Wallabies captain Andrew Slack to hold a completely independent review.
Castle is in Japan for a few more weeks attending SANZAAR and World Rugby meetings and will work to establish the terms of the review.
An RA spokesperson would not say if an independent review was being considered, however a source told the Herald the cost of getting an external company to do so might might mean an in-house review is a preferred option.
On Sunday in a press release, Castle was quoted as saying: "Scott Johnson will lead a thorough review of the Rugby World Cup campaign and the 2019 season. This is an important process which is undertaken at the completion of each tournament or series and this review will examine all aspects of the Wallabies program, from coaching to physical preparation, player fitness and skill development.
"As expected at the end of a Rugby World Cup year, there are a handful of senior players leaving the Wallabies program and coaching staff coming off contract ahead of next year. There has already been much work completed in preparing for the future in this regard and that work will also continue until the end of the year."
Rugby World Cup 2019: Michael Cheika and Raelene Castle had altercation at function, report .
Cheika last week revealed his relationship with Castle had become non-existent towards the end of his Wallabies tenure.Cheika alluded to the breakdown of his relationship with Castle and RA chairman Cameron Clyne upon announcing his resignation on Sunday following his side’s 40-16 quarter-final loss to England.