Michael Cheika comforts Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper. Picture: AAP
Michael Cheika comforts Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper. Picture: AAP

Alarm bells are ringing for Rugby Australia

MICHAEL Cheika may not be thinking about his job security, but Rugby Australia will have to amid this confidence crisis.

It's not the confidence of the players in question, despite six defeats from their past seven games.

It's the confidence of the rugby public, dwindling as fast as an All Blacks' counter-attack off turnover ball.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika after another setback at Eden Park. Picture: Getty Images
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika after another setback at Eden Park. Picture: Getty Images

The abject disaffection for Australian rugby, and particularly the Wallabies, is at an all-time low.

Because every year the fans are sold hope that the Bledisloe Cup may finally head back across the Tasman. And yet every year the gulf between the All Blacks and Australia grows wider.

And the blowout scores to the likes of England and Scotland, once unthinkable, are now part of the narrative of a team rebuilding or making mistakes on the way to next year's World Cup.

The Wallabies' performances against world No.2 Ireland in June did show promise but yet again, when it mattered most, they could not make the big plays and lost the series 2-1 at home. A first against Ireland.

Like the first 3-0 clean sweep by England here in 2016.

And like Scotland's historic win in Sydney last year, before blowing Australia off the park in Edinburgh by 53-24 months later.

The alarm bells are ringing because there are no hopeful answers. Not from Cheika or the players.

They talk about taking their chances in big Test matches, yet constantly blow them through poor handling or failing to secure their ruck ball.

They talk of needing to be better in scrambling defence, but get cut to ribbons on the counter, especially against the All Blacks.

Sometimes the lineout works, other times it's disastrous. Same with the scrum.

It's been three years since Cheika took them to the World Cup final and the team has regressed while New Zealand, Ireland and Scotland have improved markedly, England rose to dizzy heights before crashing this year, Wales remain a threat, Argentina are stronger and South Africa remain unpredictable.

The Springboks' defeat to Argentina last weekend shows that while they seem to be on the up they remain psychologically vulnerable.

The Wallabies are at the bottom of The Rugby Championship table after two rounds, but they were in the same position last year and went undefeated in their next seven Tests.

Only another streak like this can save Cheika. And it would be great to see.

Hooper’s Wallabies are getting further away from the Bledisloe Cup. Picture: Getty Images
Hooper’s Wallabies are getting further away from the Bledisloe Cup. Picture: Getty Images

Many people stopped caring about Australian rugby a long time ago, somewhere amid the 16-year Bledisloe losing streak, and 20 years without a World Cup.

Those who remain staunch have their loyalty tested with every thrashing the Wallabies suffer, every half break that leads to a dropped ball, every opposition player coasting through a gaping hole in the defence, every lineout poached by the other team.

Six defeats in seven games, most by big margins, will only lead to conjecture about the coach's ability and tactics.

Cheika is bullish by nature and will embrace the furnace over the next fortnight, but attitude needs to translate into results.

The same game management issues are occurring but David Pocock said Cheika's messages are getting through to his players.

"Yes they are, it's one of Cheik's strengths," Pocock said.

The All Blacks have an iron grip on the trophy. Picture: Getty Images
The All Blacks have an iron grip on the trophy. Picture: Getty Images

"He's got his finger on the pulse. He's very good with players, knowing how much to push."

Nothing less than victory against the Boks on September 8 will suffice.

When asked about Cheika's precarious position, rival All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said it's not fair to be judged on getting beaten by his superstar team, moving towards the greatest in the history of the game.

But in 2002, after the Wallabies had won their fifth straight Bledisloe series against New Zealand, can you imagine the fallout across the ditch if Australian coach Rod Macqueen told the Kiwis not to be too down on their coach because his side was so superior?

If Rugby Australia thinks fans are ready to swallow that, the battle for relevance is already lost.

Get 3 months free Sport HD + Entertainment on a 12 month plan and watch the 2018 Bledisloe Cup & 2018 Rugby Championship with no ad-breaks during play. T&Cs apply. SIGN UP NOW >



You decide: Which salon is Central Queensland's best?

You decide: Which salon is Central Queensland's best?

More than 1,000 nominations were received

Four-wheel-drive smashes fence after hitting parked cars

premium_icon Four-wheel-drive smashes fence after hitting parked cars

The collision forced the closure of two Rockhampton streets.

Over 100 locals hear songs made famous by legends

premium_icon Over 100 locals hear songs made famous by legends

A musical morning tea enjoyed by many earlier this month.