Aussie coach Cheika admits to getting it wrong
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Australian rugby coach Michael Cheika admitted to AFP in an interview he had to reset to zero after some disappointing results earlier in the year.
The 49-year-old - the 2015 World Coach of the Year after turning round the fortunes of a demoralised Wallabies squad and within a year guiding them to the World Cup final - said he had pressed on relentlessly with his project for the team without taking into account the new faces coming into the set-up.
Subsequently, the Wallabies suffered a historic 3-0 home whitewash series defeat to England - coached by Cheika's former Randwick teammate and former Australia handler Eddie Jones - and three losses to bitter rivals New Zealand.
When asked whether his 'young guns' - who had replaced the 'Wild Bunch' veterans such as Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper - had taken time to assimilate into the set-up and his ideas for having a strong Wallabies side based on identity he was typically forthright.
"Maybe I didn't get it 100 percent right at the start of the year," he told AFP at the Wallabies Dublin hotel as the side prepare for a crunch match against Ireland on Saturday.
"When the new guys started coming in from a mental perspective maybe I tried to continue on and didn't understand that maybe they and the other players who had gone back to their Super Rugby sides had to be either reminded of the project or introduced to it for the first time.
"We needed to go back to zero and the players told who we are and how we represent Australia and buy into the project again."
Cheika, who is two wins away from emulating the 1984 Wallabies and achieving a Grand Slam over the Home Nations, admits doing that has turned round their fortunes.
"Maybe I went on ahead with too many different themes and tried to evolve those as opposed to understanding there were a lot of new guys and it was best to restart from zero and rebuild.
"We did that and we began to feel a lot more comfortable."
Cheika, who is the only coach to win both the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere continental provincial competitions, says that his focus on establishing an identity for the team goes back to his days at fashionable Sydney club Randwick where he was a robust and fearless No.8.
"I think definitely identity has been part of my own ethos," he said.
"The club who brought me up and played for really taught me on that.
"For me when you're in the Aussie team you are in a position to inspire young kids and people to support us and also take up playing the game.
"The only chance they get to relate to us is when we play on the day and the bond can only be strong if they see we play with pride for the shirt and its something supporters can connect with back home."
Cheika, who had an unconventional background for a national coach after making a successful career in the fashion industry, admits his character even perplexes himself.
At times fiery, he is also renowned for his very uncorporate style of speaking.
"I think I'm still learning about that stuff [his character] and maybe one day I will sit back and work out exactly what it is," he said.
"But I enjoy going at all kinds of spectrums and engaging with different people from all different classes and societies and races.
"I enjoy the diversity in the world and that you get so many opportunities out there.
"I'll work it [my character] out one day."