Dublin - Australian rugby coach Michael Cheika admitted 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
Subsequently the Wallabies suffered a historic 3-0 home
whitewash series defeat to England - coached by Cheika's former Randwick
team-mate and ex 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% right at the start of the
year," he said 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
Cheika, who is the only coach to win both the Northern Hemisphere
and Southern Hemisphere continental club 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 it’s 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
"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."