Wallabies coach Michael Cheika may know before Christmas whether he will lead Australia to next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The board of Rugby Australia met for the final time this year in Sydney on Monday and made no definitive statement on the future of Cheika, whose team has lost an unprecedented nine tests in the past season.
Chairman Cameron Clyne took no questions at a news conference which lasted less than a minute but his brief statement was seen as significant because, for the first time, RA did not express explicit support for Cheika.
“We’ve had a presentation from Michael, we’ve had some data gathered from him, from his coaching staff, from his players and from our high-performance unit and we need to go through a fairly thorough review process,” Clyne said. “Obviously we’ll have more to say and have that process wrapped up ahead of Christmas.”
The clock appears to be ticking 10 months from the World Cup as the longer the board takes to reach a decision, the less time there will be to find and install a new coach and the less time that coach has to prepare the team for the quadrennial tournament.
The board’s options appear to be to retain Cheika, who has only a 50 per cent win rate since he became Australia coach in 2014; to appoint one of his current assistants to the head coaching role or to appoint an interim coach until another head coach can be found.
The search for a new head coach is complicated because most leading candidates are committed to national teams until the World Cup concludes.