Rugby Australia are unhappy with the Wallabies’ performances in 2018 but will wait for the team’s coach, Michael Cheika, to present to the board before deciding what, if any, changes are required.
That was the word from Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle ahead of the Wallabies’ arrival back in Sydney on Monday evening after a record-breaking comeback win in Salta on Sunday.
The 45-34 victory appears to have eased pressure on Cheika, which would have reached boiling point if the Wallabies failed to reverse the 31-7 half-time deficit.
But questions about the team’s sub-standard performances this year as a whole remain, and Castle said there was no desire to let one win gloss over that fact.
“The reality is that of the Test matches we have played this year we are three from nine,” she told Rugby Australia’s official website.
“So there are still some elements of performance that we can’t hide from that are still not up to the level that we would expect from a Wallabies team.
“We are expecting that Michael will come and present to us around those performances and what his plans would be going into that end of year tour, and then into the lead up to the World Cup.”
Cheika fronting the board isn’t an extraordinary step – he does it several times every year.
Castle stopped short of guaranteeing Cheika will be the man to take the Wallabies to the World Cup but she indicated his job was not under threat.
“At the end of the day Michael has a contract to coach through to the World Cup and that hasn’t changed,” she said.
“We would be expecting that he will come and present us with his plans for the Spring Tour and into the World Cup.
“Myself and the Rugby Australia board will take those comments on and move forward from there.”
The content of Cheika’s presentation to the board will potentially determine if any changes are made to the Wallabies coaching staff, either through additions or replacements.
Cheika deflected questions at the weekend about possible changes to his staff, but there have been reports a respected Wallabies figure like George Gregan or John Eales coming into the mix as an outside voice.
The team’s defence under Nathan Grey has been heavily criticised this year, with high missed tackle counts and several blow outs.
But statistics show the points conceded column has stayed relatively level to last year.
After conceding 26 points per game through the first nine games of last season, the team has allowed 27 points per game this year.
The facts and figures do show a major slide in the points production department, under attack coach Stephen Larkham.
After racking up 32 points per game through nine games this time last year, it took a 45-point haul on Sunday morning took the team’s average to just 20 per game this season.
Castle said Cheika’s presentation would address those concerns.
“Michael recognises there are performances at a level that he wouldn’t accept from the Wallabies,” she added.
“He will be reviewing that, he will present to the board and he will present a plan as to how he see’s that moving forward.
“The board will then assess against that plan.”
The Wallabies started the year with a strong win over Ireland, and lost a tight series, but the Rugby Championship has, at best, seen good halves combined with awful halves.
That lack of consistency is a particular point of focus for Castle.
“With anything, you have to follow good process and the reality is Cheika has been appointed and had some success but we have had inconsistent performances,” she said.
“That’s something we all want to see improve and the board will be expecting him to present a plan as to how he will deliver an environment that is capable of ensuring players are delivering more consistent performances.”
Castle said she won’t making rash calls on who the best people are to lead the team into 2019.
“In this world there has to be a process and some time,” said Castle.
“Has everyone got private thoughts on what those things might be? Sure.
“But the reality is we have a process and Michael needs to present that plan to us.”