LONDON – Australia coach Michael Cheika says he will assess his own performance after a disappointing year for the Wallabies as the Australian Rugby Union refused to rule out changes to his backroom staff.
The 51-year-old Australian - whose side's four wins in 13 Tests is their worst since 1995 - appeared surprised to learn ARU chief executive officer Raelene Castle had not been able to give assurances over the coaching staff with less than a year to go to the World Cup.
Cheika, who can take comfort in having engineered Ireland's only defeat in their last 19 Tests, says he will carry on with his own review regardless so he can try and fix things.
"She couldn't guarantee?" asked Cheika when told - following the 37-18 defeat by England - that Castle had not been able to assure the coaching staff would remain in place.
"You'd have to talk to her about those things," he said. "The planning of what I do in relation to the team and staff at all levels is with an eye to what is going to give the best outcome," he added.
Cheika, world coach of the year in 2015 after guiding a previously demoralised squad to the World Cup final, says one of the goals is to blend the younger players with the more experienced campaigners.
"In this squad here there are 10 players who played in the last World Cup squad. The average age of the pack is under 26," he said.
"There is a lot of single digit or teen digit capped players in there and with bringing in youth brings inconsistency. The strategy is to get experience to build consistency," he added.
'Effort and commitment'
Cheika, the only coach to have won both the Northern hemisphere and Southern hemisphere premier club competitions (the 2009 European Cup with Leinster and the 2014 Super Rugby trophy with the Waratahs), says there are other players who could well come into the squad, including bringing back a few from European clubs.
"We have got to get more experience in there, stay with the plan and add a few new ideas," said Cheika.
"There's a fair few players that aren't here that will definitely be involved. We've got our eye on about 48 players at this point that we'll have a look at around planning over the whole season.
"Guys who we think are going to be in the World Cup squad and other guys who are competition for other players at different levels."
Cheika insisted the squad is united despite the decision to drop veterans Adam Ashley-Cooper or Kurtley Beale for the England game after they broke team rules by inviting women back to their rooms after the 9-6 defeat to Wales.
"No, I don't think there is a divide whatsoever. In fact, I think the opposite," Cheika said.
"You've got to say that the team is more important than any of the individuals and that's the way it is.
"I don't think we are seeing that (a divide) in any way shape or form."
Agence France-Presse (AFP)