The public spat that finally broke the Wallabies
NEW DEVELOPMENT: Michael Cheika first lifted the lid on his broken relationship with Rugby Australia bosses, after confirming he will quit as Wallabies coach at the end of the year.
Now reports have emerged of a heated verbal altercation he had with controversial Chief Executive Officer Raelene Castle at the World Cup.
According to reports, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Foxsports reports that the fall-out between Cheika and Castle happened at a corporate event at the Australian Embassy in Tokyo on September 25, four days before Australia’s crunch World Cup match against Wales.
Cheika was believed to be angry that Castle had reached out to RA Director of Rugby Scott Johnson behind his back with a request for Wallabies players to attend the event.
Castle had flagged the event with Wallabies management months in advance and had previously put in direct requests to Cheika for him and players to attend.
But Cheika declined given the importance of the match and the fact that it would mean a trip of about 90 minutes from the team hotel in Tokyo Bay to the embassy after their toughest training session of the week.
The embassy had hoped for the entire Wallabies squad to attend but, recognising the importance of preparation for the Wales Test, Castle then went to Johnson and asked that non-selected players attend.
Cheika and several Wallabies players ended up making the journey but when Castle approached the coach to thank him for his appearance, he snapped back at her.
The two then engaged in an ugly verbal altercation for around two minutes and stinging personal words were said.
According to the Foxsports account former Wallaby Morgan Turinui stepped in to act as peacemaker in a very public spat at an event for around 60 people.
The pair have admitted they had barely spoken this year, such was the fraught state of their working relationship.
* Meanwhile AAP reports that the outgoing coach has been linked with Top 14 side Montpellier as their Director of Rugby.
Cheika’s tumultuous five years in the Australian role ended with the Wallabies’ disappointing World Cup quarterfinal exit in Japan last weekend.
Cheika didn’t address his employers or the incident with Castle, but thanked Australian fans for their loyalty in an open letter on the Athletes Voice website released on Wednesday.
He apologised to fans for their disappointing World Cup performance.
“I want to personally thank you all and also say that I am truly sorry we could not go one better in this World Cup than we did in 2015,” Cheika wrote.
“As the head coach of the Wallabies I want you to know that I feel that weight of carrying all of your hopes and I love the responsibility that comes with it.
“That is why I made the call a while back that if we didn’t win this World Cup I wouldn’t ask to be reappointed, even though I would have loved to continue coaching our national team.”
He also thanked his players, saying they had shown mettle to bounce back “despite the many obstacles that have been put in front of you over the last few years”.
Cheika made particular mention of forwards Izack Rodda and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who both lost a parent while part of his squad.
“We wanted to try to share your pain and walk with you along the way and it’s inspiring to see the way you have both stepped up for your families.
“Having lost my own father nearly 18 years ago now, I feel for you and I know your dads would be immensely proud of the men you are becoming.”
Cheika also paid tribute to Wallabies veterans David Pocock, Christian Lealiifano and Will Genia, among others who have likely played their last Test match.
Those players are shifting their careers overseas and it appears Cheika is set to do the same with French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique reporting Cheika may replace Kiwi Vern Cotter when his contract ends in June.
French-speaking Cheika played in France for four years during his 20s, coached Paris powerhouse Stade Francais between 2010–2012, plus his four children are bilingual.
At Montpellier, Cheika would coincidentally be a part of the same organisational structure which he said was behind his fallout with Castle and chairman Cameron Clyne.
Cheika would oversee head coach Xavier Garbajosa as Scott Johnson did over him in the Wallabies set-up.
The paper said that the recruitment of Cheika by the club’s billionaire president Mohed Altrad, would help to attract players.
It added that despite his lack of success with Stade Francais and most recently with the Wallabies, his “overall track record remains impressive”.
Sources: Foxsports & AAP
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