VIDEO: Wallabies skipper comes to Cheika's defence
WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT: Wallabies captain Michael Hooper defended Australia’s outgoing coach as he led his crestfallen team back home on Tuesday, vowing a turnaround after a dismal World Cup quarterfinal exit.
Michael Cheika called time on his five-year tenure after his side’s 16-40 loss to old rivals England, capping a lacklustre few years.
The two-time world champion Wallabies managed a 50 percent win rate during his 68 games in charge – 34 wins, 32 losses and two draws.
His style drew criticism, but Cheika’s time at the helm also revealed deep problems within Australian rugby – a sport that increasingly struggles to compete with other football codes for support and players.
Cheika also suffered from a bitter relationship with Rugby Australia that cast a shadow over his final year in the job.
Amid the recriminations, Hooper defended the outgoing coach as the Wallabies arrived back in Sydney from Japan.
“Cheika has been amazing for me,” the talismanic backrower told reporters. “He’s made me a better person, not just a rugby player.”
He thanked the 52-year-old for the “passion” he showed in the post, adding that the coach had stood up for his squad “all the time”.
Glasgow Warriors coach Dave Rennie, a New Zealander, is considered favourite to replace Cheika, with the next appointee expected to be handed a four-year deal taking them beyond the 2023 World Cup.
Ireland’s Joe Schmidt and England coach Eddie Jones are also being touted as options.
Hooper said his team were determined to usher in a new era after their struggles in recent years.
“I’m keen to play some rugby and turn this stuff around,” he said.
“Guys are sick of where it’s at and they want it to be better. And that’s positive.”